Judge orders government to respond to open court motion in corruption case
by Sito Negron
Posted on August 7, 2008
Federal judge Frank Montalvo responded to Newspaper Tree's motion calling on the judge to open his court hearings and docket in El Paso’s years-long public corruption investigation.
"We hope this is the first step in opening up the court docket and proceedings. The current veil of secrecy does nothing but undermine confidence in the integrity of the probe. Since the beginning of the American democracy, a free press has always been part of a transparent judicial system. We hope our efforts will restore that openness and trust in Judge Montalvo's court," said James Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, which is representing Newspaper Tree and its parent company, the El Paso Media Group.
The motion to intervene, filed Wednesday, seeks a hearing on Newspaper Tree’s petition to open future hearings and unseal court documents related to the guilty pleas of nine individuals who have pled so far. [motion]
Since John Travis Ketner, the former chief of staff to County Judge Anthony Cobos, pled guilty in a closed hearing before Montalvo more than a year ago to charges involving bribery and wire fraud, all but one of the subsequent hearings involving other defendants also have been closed. [public corruption, closed courts, may 12, 2008]
Newspaper Tree and the El Paso Media Group are represented by attorneys with the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin and its affiliate, the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Group.
In May, Montalvo filed a memorandum of opinion in response to a motion by Carl Starr to intervene that also called on Montalvo to open the hearings, docket and documents in the public corruption cases on First Amendment grounds. [corruption court stays closed, but judge offers new information, may 28 2008]
All told, nine people have pleaded guilty in the investigation. [public corruption 101, compilation of background articles, updated july 16, 2008]
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