Tattered Cover Decision Receives Widespread Coverage -- and Strong Support

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The Colorado Supreme Court’s recent ruling upholding the right of the Tattered Cover Book Store to ensure the confidentiality of the book-purchase records of customers from law enforcement scrutiny has received widespread national attention, and the strong support of the bookstore’s community. Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), noted to BTW that "it’s not an overstatement to say that the media coverage was amazing." ABFFE supported the Tattered Cover's case financially and filed two amicus briefs on the Tattered Cover’s behalf.

In addition to in-depth news stories appearing in both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, the decision was covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, among other publications and broadcast media. In addition, in Denver, both daily newspapers ran editorials hailing the decision and praising the stand the bookstore and its owner, Joyce Meskis, took in defense of readers’ First Amendment rights.

In an editorial headlined "Of Bravery and Bookselling," the Denver Post wrote, "Hurrah to Joyce Meskis for fighting the good fight by not only protecting the privacy of her customers but by being a champion of the First Amendment." The April 9 editorial in the Rocky Mountain News underscored the significance of the ruling. It pointed out that the decision not only protected the customer records but also ensured that "henceforth, [Colorado] booksellers must be given an opportunity to appear at a hearing before such search warrants can be issued. Historically, law enforcement has made its case for a warrant unilaterally before a judge."

In its ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court noted that the state constitution requires that those seeking bookstore records must demonstrate that the need for specific customer purchase records "is sufficiently compelling to outweigh the harm likely caused to constitutional interests by the execution of the search." Further, the court stated that, in the future, a search warrant would only be issued after a court hearing, where both law enforcement officials and the bookstore are represented. From the start of the case, the Tattered Cover has argued that the search warrant was issued before other, more appropriate, legal avenues had been pursued, or before a court had been given the opportunity to consider the First Amendment issues involved.

[To read the full Rocky Mountain News editorial, click here.]