Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paper Seeks Defense Expense Records in Homicide Case

Yakima Herald-RepublicImage via Wikipedia
The Yakima (Wash.) Herald-Republic argued before the Washington Supreme Court this week that the state's Public Records Act of 1972 (42.56 RCW) entitles it to access to billing records and receipts totaling more than $2 million in public funds amassed by defense counsel in a 2005 double-homicide case.

Jose Luis Sanchez Jr. and Mario Gil Mendez, who were convicted in the drug-heist related murders of Ricky Causor and his 3-year-old daughter Mya, were represented by taxpayer-funded court-appointed attorneys. Yakima County officials claim the expense records were sealed by a court-order that would expose the county to contempt were the records released to the newspaper without a judge's permission. Further complicating matters is that the judge's order sealing the expense records was itself sealed.

The Herald-Republic contends that the billing records were wrongly classified by the county officials as judicial records and should be accessible under the Public Records Act.  Judicial records are exempt under the statute. A decision in the case is not imminent, and could be as long as a year off.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Is it unusual for a judge's order itself to be sealed? And if so, are you able to speculate on possible reasons? Thanks.

  2. The judge's order being sealed poses a problem to the Wash. Supreme Court because county officials claim they're complying with a court order that the Supreme Court hasn't seen. Don't do criminal law, so can't comment on the frequency of judges sealing their orders. Notoriously, Judge John Sirica initially sealed the arrest reports of the Watergate burglars. When the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) sent a letter to the Court requesting the order be reconsidered, Judge Sirica sealed the RCFP letter !