• The San Juan Daily Star

Bar Assn. files brief in court recordings access case appealed to US Supreme Court

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Bar Association filed a friend of the court brief in the United States Supreme Court recently in support of a Puerto Rico Journalists Association (ASPPRO) appeal to overturn a lower court ruling that denied access to court recordings in the domestic violence case of Andrea Ruiz Costas.

The information was provided Tuesday by Bar Association President Daisy Calcaño López in a statement to Foro Noticioso. Ruiz Costas was a woman who was killed in an incident of gender violence by her former partner after she went to court on more than one occasion to ask for a restraining order against her former boyfriend Miguel Ocasio Santiago for attacks and threats. He allegedly ended up killing Ruiz Costas and partially burning her body on April 29.

The brief filed on Dec. 2 argues that as a corollary of freedom of speech and of the press, the public and the press have a fundamental right of access to judicial proceedings and records.

“Although it is not an absolute right, restrictions imposed on the access to information can only be established if they are necessary for the achievement of compelling government interests,” a statement said. “That standard was not applied to the case at hand.”

Carlos Gorrín Peralta, a lawyer and professor, said “access to all files on domestic violence cases was absolutely restricted, without the individualized analysis that must be done to justify the restriction.”

“In this case, there were no compelling privacy and security interests to protect the files from public scrutiny because both the victim and the perpetrator had died when access was denied,” he said.

The brief indicates that a Puerto Rico Supreme Court decision deprived the petitioning Bar Association of due process of law by preventing, through the intrajurisdictional certification resource, the holding of a hearing in commonwealth Superior Court to elucidate the request made by ASPPRO. Nor did it allow the petition to be argued by the parties before the Supreme Court itself by dispensing with all the ordinary processes for the processing of matters before the Court.

In charge of writing the friend of the court brief was a team coordinated by Gorrín Peralta with the collaboration of colleagues from the Bar Association Governing Board, the Women’s Affairs Commission and the academy: Jessica Méndez Colberg, Nelson N. Córdova Morales, Donald Milan Guindín, Josefina Pantoja Oquendo, Lindsay Murillo and Vivian Pellicier.

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