Constitutional Law

Judge who sealed documents about her beach property gets reversed by appeals court

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A Connecticut appeals court has vacated a judge’s order sealing two documents about a beach property that she owned in Maine after a law professor stepped in to argue for their release.

Judge Sheila Ozalis had sealed the documents last month after expressing concern that exposing the address of her home in Maine posed a security issue, the Hartford Courant reports.

The appeals court issued its order last Friday, and the documents were unsealed Monday.

The newly unsealed documents were filed by lawyer David Hardy, who said Ozalis shouldn’t preside in a beach-access case in Branford, Connecticut.

Hardy argued in the unsealed motion and brief that Ozalis had a conflict because her Maine home was in an area where a similar lawsuit was filed. Ozalis wasn’t involved in the Maine litigation.

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, had sought release of the documents in a petition for review that he excerpted on his blog, the Volokh Conspiracy.

According to the Hartford Courant, Volokh “has jetted around the country for years, intervening and filing briefs in a wide variety of cases and locales. He often jumps into matters of free speech and public access to court proceedings.”

Volokh told the Connecticut appeals court that he would like to write about the case “in an informed way,” but he couldn’t do it because of the sealed documents.

Connecticut has a presumption that court documents are open to the public, a presumption that is “anchored in the First Amendment,” Volokh argued.

A court filing says a settlement in the underlying case was reached Feb. 5, although it still needs approval by some entities.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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