New Mexico Alt-Weekly Gets Its Day in Court

Santa Fe Reporter alleges it was denied free press rights and mandated access to public records.

At the end of this week’s Sante Fe Reporter cover story, readers are presented with a most interesting bit of contextual information:

SantaFeReporterEditorsNote

Proctor’s piece is a fascinating tick-tock about how years of thwarted journalistic effort led the paper to file suit in 2013 against the office of Governor Susana Martinez, over the outlet’s inability to fulfill requests under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). Three years later, the case is finally about to go to trial:

The three former Reporter staffers [Joey Peters, Justin Horwath, Alexa Schirtzinger] and its current leadership are expected to testify. So are a host of current and former Martinez administration insiders, although the governor herself is not on the witness list. District Court Judge Sarah Singleton will decide after a three-day bench trial scheduled to begin Nov. 21 whether Martinez broke the law when she allegedly denied the existence of documents the Reporter already had, delayed the release of other records and shattered the limits of the state sunshine law to get around producing still more public documents.

The newspaper’s public records claims are not unusual, although they allege a pattern of withholding documents. The Reporter also brought a second claim, the first of its kind: that the governor violated the newspaper’s free press rights under the state constitution by consistently not responding to routine questions on garden-variety topics from its journalists—questions submitted contemporaneously by reporters at other news organizations on the same topics.

The Governor’s office gave the Reporter a whopper of quote in 2013 when the lawsuit was filed, one that is pointed to again for this story by the politician’s current press secretary. And thanks to the independent journalism at work for the piece, that side of that equation is given fair weight in the article. Tellingly, in this day and age of Wikileaks, the saltiness of the Governor’s response in 2013 tracks back to leaked emails.