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In re: Juror Questionnaires in United States v. Stone

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  1. Court Access

Amicus brief filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 21 media organizations

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Date Filed: March 19, 2020

Update: On Nov. 23, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order denying the unsealing motion. The district court found that the ongoing privacy and security interests of the jurors continue to outweigh the public’s interest in the requested information. The court further denied as moot the request for access to the foreperson’s jury number, as her written questionnaire response was already released as part of an April 2020 ruling by the court denying Roger Stone’s motion for a new trial.

Background: In late February, right-wing blogger Mike Cernovich filed a motion to intervene in the federal prosecution of political consultant Roger Stone after the jury found Stone guilty on seven counts connected to the government’s investigation of potential collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, including lying to Congress and tampering with a witness.

Cernovich sought access to juror questionnaires used during the jury selection process and the jury identification number of the jury’s foreperson. He filed his motion after the jury foreperson’s neutrality in the Stone case was questioned by Trump and others and after she had publicly identified herself on social media.

The Court opened a separate proceeding to address Cernovich’s motion.

Our position: The Court should disclose the jury questionnaires in this case and the jury identification numbers of the foreperson and other jurors.

  • Members of the press rely on access to juror questionnaires to report on jury selection, which contributes to public understanding of the criminal justice system and promotes the administration of justice.
  • The First Amendment creates a presumptive right of access to jury selection, including jury questionnaires.
  • This presumptive right of access includes the right to know which questionnaires correspond to each juror selected for service.

Quote: “[P]ublic access to the jury questionnaires will promote trust in the criminal justice system by allowing members of the press and public to better understand how the jury in this case was selected.”

Related: In 2015, the Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of The Washington Post, which was seeking access to completed jury questionnaires in the criminal trial of former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife. In their brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Reporters Committee attorneys argued that the First Amendment provides a presumptive right of access to juror questionnaires.

Public access to juror identities, questionnaires, and related records often varies across jurisdictions. Check out this page from the Reporters Committee’s Open Courts Compendium to see how this information is treated in federal and state courts across the country.

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