Media appeal in Jackson case was delayed by court clerk

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Posted on Thu, Jul. 15, 2004 Media appeal in Jackson case was delayed by court clerk LINDA DEUTSCH Associated Press LOS ANGELES – An appeal by news media seeking access to information in the Michael Jackson court case went unfiled for a week because a clerk in the trial court refused to place it on the court docket, according to papers filed Thursday. Attorney Dominic Lanza, who filed the first notice of appeal on July 8, said he checked five days later to make sure the matter had been docketed and was told by the appellate clerk in the office of Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville that it was not filed because, “The court is not recognizing you as a party.” Lanza, who is part of the legal team headed by Theodore Boutrous Jr., said it took until Thursday to get a clarification from the presiding justice of the California Second District Court of Appeal who instructed the clerk that the notice of appeal should be filed. Melville has imposed extraordinary rules of secrecy in the singer’s child molestation case and 11 news media organizations including The Associated Press, are suing for access to court files on behalf of the public. “It’s clear that we have standing to appeal,” Boutrous said Thursday. “So we were surprised to find out that our notice of appeal was not on the docket.” He noted that during court hearings, “Judge Melville has allowed us to participate fully in arguing to unseal documents. We have briefed and argued more motions than anybody.” In a 27-page brief filed Thursday, Boutrous asked the appeals court for an expedited schedule saying, “The public’s First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings and documents is one that is exceedingly time-sensitive.” He asked that the secrecy issues be resolved before a major series of hearings beginning Aug. 16 on defense motions to dismiss the indictment of Jackson. The appeal notes that the judge has ordered all documents in the case to be filed under seal for his consideration of release later. To date, he has released only heavily edited portions of motions and search warrants and has kept secret key details of the indictment, the grand jury transcripts and even a motion to change the trial date. Boutrous acknowledged that the judge justifies the unusual secrecy “based on Mr. Jackson’s fame and celebrity status and the intense public and media interest in the case,” fearful that publicity might taint the jury pool and prejudice Jackson’s right to a fair trial. But he quoted from a recent appellate decision in New York’s Martha Stewart case which said that media coverage was not a sufficient reason to close proceedings. “In general, openness acts to protect rather than to threaten the right to a fair trial,” said the decision he quoted from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal. :nav Source:

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