Reporters Committee and Time Inc. appeal denial of access to court records in Trump Tower lawsuit

Press Release | November 18, 2016
Reporters Committee and Time Inc. appeal denial of access to court records in Trump Tower lawsuit

Attorneys from the Reporters Committee and Time Inc. filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today challenging a district court’s refusal to unseal at least four documents from the 1999 settlement of a class action lawsuit relating to the construction of Trump Tower. President-elect Donald J. Trump and The Trump Organization were among the defendants in the case, Hardy, et al. v. Kaszycki & Sons, et al.

The plaintiffs in Hardy alleged that undocumented, non-union Polish workers were employed in connection with the demolition of the Bonwit Teller building in Manhattan to make way for Trump Tower, and that the businesses responsible for the demolition failed to make agreed-upon payments for those workers’ wages to construction union insurance trust funds and pension funds.

The case was dismissed in 1999 after a settlement was reached by the parties. At least four documents, including two court orders approving that settlement, were sealed. In July, the Reporters Committee and Time filed a motion with the district court in New York, seeking to unseal all sealed documents in the Hardy case. The district court denied that motion.

In their brief to the court of appeals, the Reporters Committee and Time argue that the sealed records in Hardy “are judicial documents that the press and the public have a strong presumptive right to access under both common law and the First Amendment,” and that the public’s interest in access in this case is “exceptionally powerful.”

The brief notes that the subject matter of the Hardy case relates directly to issues—such as illegal immigration—that “Mr. Trump placed at the center of his presidential campaign and that, presumably, will underlie his administration’s policies.” Accordingly, the Reporters Committee and Time argue, the sealed documents will not only “shed light on Mr. Trump’s use of the court system, generally, which was examined during his presidential campaign and remains a subject of public discussion following his election,” but also provide the public with information about “important matters concerning the policies of the President-elect.”

For more information, contact Reporters Committee Litigation Director Katie Townsend, ktownsend@rcfp.org, 202-795-9303.

About the Reporters Committee

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970 when the nation’s news media faced an unprecedented wave of government subpoenas forcing reporters to name confidential sources. Today it provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. Funded by corporate, foundation and individual contributions, the Reporters Committee serves the nation’s leading news organizations; thousands of reporters, editors, and media lawyers; and many more who use our online and mobile resources. For more information, go to rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.