Voice of the Free Press: Closing doors on public scrutiny | Burlington Free Press | burlingtonfreepress.com

Posted: July 12, 2011 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

The Vermont attorney general’s motion before the state Supreme Court against releasing police search warrant results in the case of the missing Essex couple is one more piece of evidence that portions of state government have yet to embrace the notion of government transparency and accountability as a public good.

The case is about a specific set of documents in a particular case. Yet, the state is using the case to take away the public’s right to access a class of documents, a right established by a 2001 lower court ruling.

Vermont’s law enforcement establishment is too opaque as it is. The public has access to too little information, especially about how police misconduct is handled. If the recent reports outlining problems at the Vermont Police Academy are an indication, law enforcement needs every bit as much public oversight as any other part of government.

Now, the state is moving to nullify one of the few avenues available for the public to inspect police conduct on the job.

The Free Press made a simple public records request for the warrant returns in mid-June, and Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan made a motion in court requesting the documents be sealed. Warrant returns document what police found when they executed the court-authorized search.

Two Superior Court judges, Linda Levitt and James Crucitti, turned down Donovan’s request. In one decision, Judge Crucitti wrote, “The court does not believe the state has outlined sufficient reasons to justify sealing of the records on a stay of the order.”

Instead of presenting a beefier argument in Superior Court, Donovan has chosen to take his case before the state Supreme Court where the Attorney General’s Office, in a motion on behalf of the state’s attorney, has introduced the notion that the public has no inherent right to access warrants.

Such zeal to suppress information by any part of government smacks of authoritarianism.

via Voice of the Free Press: Closing doors on public scrutiny | Burlington Free Press | burlingtonfreepress.com.

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