Lawyer Loses Claim for Ticket Data Access
(CN) - A law firm that advertises traffic-ticket services through direct mailings cannot force one-day turnover of municipal citation data because it is not a nationally established practice, the 5th Circuit ruled.
Barry Bobbitt and his firm, Sullo & Bobbitt, filed suit three years ago against municipal court leaders in Fort Worth, Dallas and Arlington, as well as a justice of the peace.
The federal complaint in Dallas, filed a year after a similar action in state court, alleged violations of First and 14th Amendment and common-law rights to "quick access to court records."
Bobbitt alleged the officials "deliberately delayed access to the contact information" without practical justification.
He said the officials should either accept his offer to pay for installation of computer software that would make the information available electronically or send their own employees to the courts to manually copy the records each day.
In dismissing the claims last year, a federal judge faulted Bobbitt for not filing an amended complaint.
The ruling applied the U.S. Supreme Court's "experience and logic" tests and said that Bobbitt had failed to allege that courts in the rest of the country - not just Texas - have historically given access to court records in the manner requested.
A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit affirmed Wednesday, saying it was proper to apply the standard of looking at court practices throughout the country for the experience test.
"Sullo & Bobbitt's limited evidence of Texas practices is insufficient to establish a right under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," the unsigned opinion states. "While they may be correct that the Supreme Court has not described at length what is required for a practice to be adopted nationwide, appellants' failure to even allege that other municipalities provide access to these documents within one business day of their filing simplifies our inquiry."
It was correct to conclude that the "right to immediate access" to such court records is not established across the United States, the New Orleans-based court found.
Neither Bobbitt not his firm returned a request for comment Sunday.