First Amendment – cornerstone of liberty, must be protected with vigilance
In a major step toward protecting the public’s access to information, the Texas Supreme Court last month affirmed the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals’ July 2019 ruling to overturn the sealing of key exhibits in the Title Source (now Amrock) v. HouseCanary trade secrets case. The exhibits, which were retroactively sealed after HouseCanary shared them in open court, may contain critical information as it relates to the merits of the case.
In their decision upholding the appellate court’s ruling, the state’s high court agreed HouseCanary failed to adhere to the proper document sealing protocols as laid out in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure. HouseCanary’s failure to follow the rules does not alter the First Amendment right of access or the importance of the presumption of openness, which the Texas Supreme Court decision ultimately held. The sealing matter will now be sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.
The Houston Forward Times has closely followed this case, including joining with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to serve as media interveners, to advocate for open access to court documents and the public’s right to know. Indiscriminately sealing key legal documents and blocking the public and media’s access to court information is a clear and present threat to the First Amendment. The First Amendment serves as a cornerstone of liberty, and it must be protected with vigilance.
The Houston Forward Times and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will continue to closely follow the sealing issue and all threats to the First Amendment as well as the broader case, awaiting the ultimate decision.