Hustler’s Larry Flynt Can’t Get Death Row Records Unsealed

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By Alisa Johnson

Hustler magazine’s Larry Flynt has lost his bid to force a Missouri court to unseal records of death row inmates’ challenges to Missouri’s lethal injection protocol.

There is no First Amendment or common-law right of the public to view this type of judicial record when access “would not play a significant positive role in the function of Missouri’s execution protocol,” Judge C. Arlen Beam said in an opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Release of the information Flynt seeks—documents relating to the professional qualifications of two medical members of the state’s execution team—"would effectively eviscerate the state’s ability to carry out executions by jeopardizing its ability to have medical professionals on the execution team,” the court said March 13.

Judicial records are presumptively open to the public, but the U.S. Supreme Court has said access can be restricted “to preserve higher values.”

Flynt seeks to discover whether a particular team member is board certified and properly licensed.

Disclosure could impact the personal and professional safety of execution team members, and compromise the state’s interest in carrying out executions, the court said.

It noted that in other jurisdictions pharmacists have been harassed and threatened for participating in executions, and that groups have made public statements vowing to expose and coerce those involved in executions.

Flynt is an intervenor in the case, which means that although he is not a party the court has allowed him to participate in the proceedings.

The case is Flynt v. Lombardi , 2018 BL 84344, 8th Cir., 16-129516-2232, 3/13/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Alisa Johnson in Washington at ajohnson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bloomberglaw.com

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