Don't strike brief, Record maintains

By Steve Korris | Aug 21, 2008



CHARLESTON - Kanawha Circuit Judge Louis Bloom shouldn't discard friendly advice from The West Virginia Record as he decides whether The Associated Press can see electronic mail of Supreme Court justices, The Record argues.

The Record on Aug. 15 opposed a motion of state courts administrator Steve Canterbury to strike a brief The Record filed as "amicus curiae," or friend of the court, in the AP case.

Record attorney Marc Williams wrote that "the significance and the cutting-edge nature of the pending issues warrant providing the Court with more, not less information."

"It is surprising that the defendant would seek to curtail the information available to help the court address the novel and important issues involved in this case," he wrote. "The defendant has failed to offer any reason why the court should restrict the information available to assist it in deciding this case."

The AP seeks to obtain e-mails between Chief Justice Spike Maynard and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Bloom has kept the e-mails in his chambers since June 25.

The Record has asked for other Supreme Court e-mails, but it has not sued for access.

According to Canterbury's attorney, Ancil Ramey, The Record should have sued instead of filing an amicus brief.

When Ramey moved to strike The Record's brief, he argued that The Record should have intervened as a party to the case.

Williams rejected that idea.

"Consistent with its role as amicus, The Record did not advocate a specific result in this case," he wrote.

Intervention would complicate and delay the case by requiring Bloom to decide whether Canterbury must produce e-mails The Record requested, he wrote.

"The Record is interested in process, not outcome," he wrote.

Williams argued in the amicus brief that the law grants access to documents even if they were not directly used in the performance of government functions.

He wrote that the law requires disclosure of e-mails if they contain any information relating to the conduct of public business.

Even private personal information must be disclosed in light of clear evidence that public interest favors disclosure, he argued.

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