Federal lawsuit dismissed for delayed access to Maine civil court digital files


A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking immediate access to civil matters in the Maine judicial system’s e-filing program.

The complaint filed in February alleged that the rules for publishing civil complaints violated the newspaper’s right to access court records. The complaint also sought an injunction that would force the Maine judicial system to change its rules.

The Bangor Daily News, alongside the Courthouse News Service – a national California-based publication that focuses on legal news – was plaintiff in the lawsuit, the owners of the Portland Press Herald and the Lewiston Sun Journal, as well as other local newspapers in the state.

According to the rules for the state judicial system’s electronic filing system – which began to be implemented in 2020 – newly filed civil claims were not published until three working days after the clerk was notified that the defendants in the case had received the lawsuit.

However, under the Maine Code of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff had 90 days from the date of filing to serve the complaint on defendants. That meant it could take more than three months for civil claims to be published.

Three weeks after the complaint was filed, the Maine Judicial Branch announced that new civil cases could be accessed digitally after cases were processed – and said it should take no more than four business hours – and the state then filed a request The Portland Press Herald reported that the lawsuit was dismissed.

US District Court judge Nancy Torreson granted the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Friday, stating in her order: “The plaintiffs’ challenge is timing, not denial of public access. That distinction makes a difference, ”reported the Press Herald.

“Plaintiffs’ position is that anything other than immediate access upon receipt violates their rights under the First Amendment. I disagree, and so do most of the courts, “Torresen wrote, adding,” There is no right to immediate access after the court has received new civil claims, “the newspaper reported.

Torreson also denied plaintiff’s motion for an injunction.

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