Media appeals transcript case to U.S. Supreme Court
Seven media organizations are asking the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to public testimony from a private hearing in the Kobe Bryant case.In a pleading filed with the nation’s high court, attorneys for the seven media organizations say the Colorado Supreme Court is violating the First Amendment with their ruling blocking publication of transcripts from a June 21-22 closed hearing. In a 4-3 vote, the Colorado Supreme Court Monday upheld an earlier ruling by District Judge Terry Ruckriegle, who originally barred publication, and threatened anyone who defied him with possible contempt citations.”The underlying question asks, can the press publish what it knows?” said local attorney Rohn Robbins. “Ruckriegle’s ruling basically said, “Thou shalt not publish.”The media groups asked Justice Stephen Breyer to put the ruling on hold pending a formal appeal of the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Breyer is the circuit justice for Colorado’s 10th Circuit.At issue are transcripts from a two-day private hearing in June that were accidentally e-mailed to seven media outlets by a court reporter. Ruckriegle almost immediately issued his order blocking their publication.The transcript contains testimony from a rape shield hearing, and information about a state victims compensation program. Ruckriegle has yet to rule on what, if anything, the jury will hear about the alleged victim’s sexual activity around the time of the June 30, 2003 incident.Robbins said under normal circumstances, chances are remote that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case. But First Amendment cases are not normal circumstances, and that’s what media attorney Tom Kelley says this case deals with.”Less than 1 percent of the cases appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court are actually heard,” said Robbins. “The Supreme Court essentially decides ‘this is something of substantial import that requires our input.’ Kelley and others say the U.S. Supreme Court will feel that way. Kelley is asking them to not make this permanent. They’re asking the high court to forget what the lower courts have said and look at it with their own eyes.”In its ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed that Ruckriegle’s ruling amounted to prior restraint, but said that in this case, and with these specific facts, it’s permissible. The court said such a step was permissible to protect the alleged victim’s privacy rights and Bryant’s and his alleged victim’s right to a fair trial.”Since prior restaint cases are of significant import, and because of the public nature of this case, I think the U.S. Supreme Court will stay the Colorado Supreme Court’s order while they decide whether or not to hear it,” said Robbins. “Prior restraint is so disfavored, except under exceptional circumstances, I think the U.S. Supreme Court will hear it, and that it will be overturned.”Attorneys for the media groups, however, said Ruckriegle’s order “cannot withstand even the most cursory application of well-settled First Amendment principles.”Media attorneys Tom Kelley, Steven Zansberg and Christoper Beall also criticized the Colorado court’s conclusions on the prior restraint issue.”Prior restraint is a particular anathema in part because it always imposes certain censorship based solely on speculation and surmise that publication will cause some harm,” they wrote in their pleading. “In reality, it is impossible to know in advance what will be published and whether the publication will cause the asserted harms.”Media organizations involved in the transcripts case are The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times, CBS, Fox News, ESPN, the television show “Celebrity Justice” and the Associated Press.Bryant, 25, is accused of raping a hotel worker at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera. He has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault, saying he had consensual sex with the woman, now 20.If convicted, he faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine up to $750,000. His trial begins Aug. 27.Robbins said this will have no practical effect on the trial date.