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Appeal proceeds secretly in Gray campaign investigation

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The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington issued several secret orders in a completely sealed case this week, as part…

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington issued several secret orders in a completely sealed case this week, as part of an investigation into D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign.

The case involves a probe into businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson, as reported by The Washington Post and other media sources. Thompson is alleged to have run a secret campaign for Gray, without abiding by campaign-finance disclosure laws or revealing the campaign to the public.

The case is unusual in that all filings and documents have been sealed by the appeals court. While the online docket shows that Thompson’s appeal was dismissed, all other documents are inaccessible and are labeled only in general terms.

A federal trial court in May 2012 made public a partially redacted order, which did not identify Thompson, regarding seized documents, and an appeal followed.

Law enforcement officials raided Thompson’s home last March under a warrant in connection with the investigation, and they took dozens of boxes of records. Thompson’s attorney had sought to limit what documents could be considered by the court in the overall case.

Last May, Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth for the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that some of the documents were subject to the attorney-client privilege and a Department of Justice “filter team,” independent of the prosecutors, would determine which records were outside the scope of the warrant.

Lamberth’s ruling was initially kept under seal, but a redacted version was released several weeks later, after the parties sent proposed redactions to Lamberth.

Thompson appealed the ruling.

This week’s sealed order from the appeals court allows the prosecutors to use the records, according to the Post. Because of the sealing, it is unclear whether prosecutors’ usage of the records is still subject to the “filter team” mentioned in Lamberth’s redacted opinion.

The online docket refers to the same case number on Lamberth’s opinion and shows that a closed oral arugment was held September 25 before a panel consisting of Circuit Judges Merrick Garland, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh.

The order dismissing Thompson’s appeal was issued Tuesday, along with an opinion, another order and two clerk’s orders. All those documents are under seal as well.