Enquirer: Judge's decision to seal public records is unconstitutional

From The Cincinnati Enquirer A Warren County judge's decision to seal public records connected to a Mason woman's mysterious death was unconstitutional, The Enquirer says in a lawsuit.

In filings sent Tuesday to the 12th District Court of Appeals, The Enquirer says Common Pleas Judge Donald Oda improperly denied the public's right to see investigatory records related to the March 30 death of Susan Sparks. Oda did not conduct a hearing about the matter and never explained his reasons for sealing the records, the lawsuit says.

The Enquirer is asking the appeals court to force Oda to unseal the records.

The records include search warrants and investigators' reasons for seeking those warrants. Court documents are presumed to be open to the public, the lawsuit says.

State laws that govern the courts, according to the lawsuit, allow a judge to deny access to case documents only if the judge "finds by clear and convincing evidence the presumption of public access is outweighed by a higher interest."

The lawsuit also says Oda did not show that the decision to seal the records was "the least restrictive means for" protecting the investigation. Oda, the lawsuit says, could have redacted some information or sealed only parts of the records.

Continue Reading>>