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Net news firm to file public access suit

Claiming discrimination against Internet news services, APBnews.com will sue the federal judiciary tomorrow morning for blocking access to public records, company executives say.

Claiming discrimination against Internet news services, APBnews.com will sue the federal judiciary tomorrow morning for blocking access to public records, company executives said today.

The lawsuit comes a week after the committee that oversees judicial matters rejected APBnews' request for financial disclosure records of all federal judges. The news organization, which covers crime and legal issues, had wanted to post the records on its Web site, but the judges were fearful that the Internet's far-reaching readership would present security risks.

The records have been released to newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Kansas City Star, however, and are supposed to be available to the public.

"Congress made clear in its legislation that the financial disclosure reports are public records," said Mark Zaid, APB's Washington, D.C., attorney. "Until these records are released as Congress intended, a dark cloud will hang over what has historically been perhaps the most revered and distinguished branch of our government."

The lawsuit accuses the Judicial Conference of violating APB's First and Fifth Amendment rights by treating the Internet media differently than other news organizations.

Named as defendants in the case are the 15 judges who are members of the Committee on Financial Disclosure of the Judicial Conference, the Administrative Office of the United States Court, and the U.S. Marshal's office.