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United States v. Team Finance

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  1. Court Access

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Date Filed: Feb. 3, 2023

Background: In December 2021, Loren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, moved to intervene to challenge sealing orders in False Claims Act litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In the underlying case, TeamHealth, an emergency room management company, was accused of fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid millions for services that were never rendered. Much of the case was conducted in secret, pursuant to an expansive confidentiality order and numerous sealing orders.

In his motion to intervene, which came less than six months after the case settled, Adler alleged that the sealing orders violated his common law and First Amendment access rights and that the sealed records would inform his academic writing about healthcare costs.

The district court denied Adler’s motion to intervene, finding that, because he had only a “general interest” in the records, he lacked standing. Because the court denied the intervention motion, it did not reach the sealing issue.

Adler appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Our Position: The Fifth Circuit should reverse the district court’s order denying Adler’s motion to intervene.

  • Intervention to challenge restrictions on public access is a necessary and well-established component of our open judicial system. Intervention is also an essential tool for journalists to obtain and report on newsworthy information in cases of public concern.
  • Journalists and other members of the public, like Adler, have standing to intervene for the limited purpose of seeking to unseal judicial records.
  • The district court’s decision misinterprets and misapplies Rule 24(b)’s requirements for permissive intervention in the context of a motion seeking access to sealed judicial records.

Quote: “Access to judicial records in this case and others like it — which could shed light on factors impacting U.S. healthcare costs — enables journalists and news organizations to produce timely, informative reporting for the benefit of the public.”

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