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ACLU seeks high court review of secret deportation hearings

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ACLU seeks high court review of secret deportation hearings

  • A decision by the Court will resolve the conflict between two appellate jurisdictions as to whether the press and public have a First Amendment right of access to secret proceedings.

March 6, 2003 — The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition Monday requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review whether the government violated the First Amendment and federal law when it closed “special interest” deportation hearings connected with its terrorism investigation.

The ACLU filed its petition on behalf of the North Jersey Media Group Inc. and the New Jersey Law Journal, seeking to overturn the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia (3rd Cir.) supporting categorical closure. This decision directly conflicts with a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (6th Cir.) allowing access to “special interest” cases unless closure is “necessitated by a compelling governmental interest, and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.”

“If deportation hearings are to be conducted in secret, the First Amendment does not permit that decision to be made on the basis of categorical judgments rather than careful case-by-case determinations,” the ACLU argued in its petition.

If the Supreme Court accepts review, it would resolve the conflict between the two appellate jurisdictions and provide answers to the questionable constitutionality of secret deportation hearings held since September 11.

(North Jersey Media Group Inc. v. Ashcroft: Media Counsel: Lee Gelernt, American Civil Liberties Foundation, New York, N.Y.) ST

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