Essex Richards Law firm attorneys North Carolina Jon Buchan

Essex Richards Lawyers Win Access to Court Records Case

The North Carolina Court of Appeals this week ruled for Essex Richards’ client The Fayetteville Observer and reversed a Superior Court Judge’s sealing of the entire court file in a civil case involving a prominent Fayetteville business man. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court’s blanket sealing order – which kept secret even the names of the parties, the trial judge and the lawyers involved in the case – violated the First Amendment and the North Carolina constitution.

Partner Jon Buchan was quoted this week in a Fayetteville Observer article about the case, “Appeals Court orders Mike Lallier case unsealed.”

“With absolute clarity, our Court of Appeals reminded us today that judicial proceedings are, as a matter of constitutional law, public property, not private property, and that justice should not be administered behind closed doors and in records sealed from public view,” he said. “We want the public to have confidence that our courts operate fairly and effectively, and the best way to ensure that is to guarantee that people can see and hear what happens in our courtrooms.”

“It is so fundamental that our justice system is open and transparent,” Matt Leclercq, The Fayetteville Observer’s executive editor said. “People have a right to know what goes on in their courthouse, and the decisions made by their elected judges.”

“We have always been sensitive to the fact that this civil case involves minors who alleged sexual abuse, and we never asked the court to reveal their identities. We’ve maintained that the court can and should balance the responsibility of protecting the minors with the public’s constitutional right to access court records,” Leclercq said.

Essex Richards lawyers Natalie Potter and Caitlin Walton were also involved in the appeal, along with John Korzen of the Wake Forest University School of Law.

To read the full story from The Fayetteville Observer, click here. To read the full opinion, click here