The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will soon address what right the media has to access criminal records. The case involves the request of the Boston Globe for a booking photograph of an officer after an arrest. Attempts by the media to gain access to criminal files has been a big issue in the news recently. One of the major issues in the Robert Kraft case will be whether the media will be allowed to see the surveillance video of the spa. The case before the SJC involves similar issues of the right of public access versus the right of someone charged with a criminal offense not to be unduly shamed and harmed publicly by the publication of evidence of the criminal case. Having a booking photo posted online, is in someway more damaging to someones career and reputation than a criminal conviction. Normally, the media will access the police report and booking photographs through copying the court file which is public record; the case on appeal involved a clerk magistrate hearing where the complaint did not issue and another case where the court file was sealed. Clerk magistrate hearing are not open to the public; however, another lawsuit by the Boston Globe is attempting to challenge the privacy of clerk magistrate hearings.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments next month to determine whether a Superior Court judgment allowing press access to certain criminal record information should be overturned. In February all parties in the case of Boston Globe Media v. Dept. of Criminal Justice Information Services, Massachusetts State Police, and the Boston Police Dept. filed their briefs before the SJC.
This case stems from a series of public records requests made by the Boston Globe. When a Globe reporter requested booking photographs of law enforcement officers who had been arrested in the summer of 2015, his request was denied by the Massachusetts State Police on the basis that the disclosure of those photos was prohibited by the CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) Act. On a separate occasion when The Boston Globe requested an incident report involving a Massachusetts state district judge, the request was denied for the same reason.