Closed court records

Perry v. Hollingsworth

August 8, 2018

The Reporters Committee and 35 media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of Intervenor-Appellee KQED, Inc., which is seeking access to a video recording of the 2010 trial before the Northern District of California over the constitutionality of Proposition 8.  The district court ordered that the videotape recordings could be released in 2020, unless, at that time, the proponents of sealing can show a compelling reason, narrowly-tailored, that would justify keeping them under seal.  The proponents appealed to the 9th Circuit.

Courthouse News Service v. Brown

April 19, 2018

RCFP and a coalition of media organizations filed an amicus brief in the Seventh Circuit in support of Courthouse News Service's efforts to require the Cook County (Illinois) Circuit Court to fulfill its First Amendment obligations related to access to newly filed civil complaints. The district court granted CNS a preliminary injunction ordering the circuit court clerk to provide contemporaneous access to the documents, and the clerk appealed the injunction. RCFP's brief argues that the First Amendment right of access requires the clerk to provide contemporaneous access to newly filed civil complaints before processing. In addition, the brief argues that timely access to civil complaints benefits the public and that CNS's profit motive and readership are irrelevant to the determination of the First Amendment right of access.


Doe v. Doe (In re Fayetteville Observer)

February 19, 2018

The Reporters Committee joined a media coalition amicus brief in support of The Fayetteville Observer's motion to unseal a totally sealed civil case in North Carolina state court, in which everything in the case file, including the docket, identities of the parties and their counsel, and the sealing orders themselves, were under seal.  The trial court denied the motion, and the newspaper appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  The amicus brief argues that the wholesale sealing of the case violates the North Carolina and U.S. consitutions and is contrary to North Carolina precedent.  The amicus brief also argues that courts in other judisdictions have reversed similarly broad sealing orders and that the total sealing of this case undermines public confidence in the judicial system.  The brief was drafted by attorneys from Stevens Martin Vaughn & Tadych, PLLC.

CNS v. Yamasaki

January 8, 2018

RCFP filed an application for leave to re-file its previously accepted amicus brief in Courthouse News Service v. Yamasaki.  Courthouse News Service (CNS) filed suit against the Orange County clerk of court to challenge delays in the release of newly filed civil complaints.  RCFP filed an amicus brief on behalf of a coalition in support of CNS's motion for a preliminary injunction. Yamasaki has now filed a motion for summary judgment. RCFP's application asks the Court to consider its previously-filed amicus brief in support of CNS when determining the motion for summary judgment.

O'Reilly v. McPhilmy

February 7, 2017

A Gizmodo Media Group attorney was denied access to a court hearing and filings in O'Reilly v. McPhilmy (involving a fraud action brought by Bill O'Reilly against his ex-wife tied to their divorce and custody proceedings). The court sealed the records and closed the courtroom without making the necessary findings on the record. Gizmodo Media sought an appellate order for the immediate release of the transcript from the hearing that was closed. The Reporters Committee filed an amicus brief agreeing with Gizmodo that closing the doors to the court and maintaining a seal on the materials at issue here without any written findings violated both the First Amendment and New York’s statutory right of access.

Reporters Committee and media coalition move to unseal prosecutions of Colombian paramilitary leaders

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Secret Courts | News | April 7, 2015
April 7, 2015

A coalition of media organizations and journalists led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed petitions to unseal secretive criminal prosecutions of four Colombian paramilitary leaders who were extradited to the United States in 2008. CBS Broadcasting Inc., Sergio Gomez, a U.S.-based reporter for El Tiempo, Daniel Pacheco, a U.S. based reporter for Caracol and El Espectador, and Univision have joined the Reporters Committee in this effort.

Grand jury secrecy comes at a cost

Tom Isler | Secret Courts | News | January 13, 2015
January 13, 2015

Two new lawsuits are challenging the continued secrecy of the grand jury investigations related to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. The suits demonstrate just how secret the information gathered by a grand jury is, while also making a compelling case for the public interest in greater access.

Kennedy v. Orszag

January 21, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, on behalf of a coalition of media organizations, successfully intervened to unseal records in a child-support modification case in D.C. Superior Court. The parties in the case are former Office of Management and Budget director and current Citigroup executive Peter Orszag and his ex-wife Cameron Kennedy. Orszag had tried to seal his financial records that were evidence in the case, arguing that release could damage his efforts to return to government service; that his confidentiality agreement with Citigroup exempted his salary from disclosure, and that family court trials do not have the same tradition of openness as other civil proceedings. The Reporters Committee argued that sealing runs counter to the presumptive right of access under common law to court documents in civil trials in Washington, DC.

Federal court declines to unseal records on investigation into Wisconsin Republican campaign finances

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | June 23, 2014
June 23, 2014

A district court in Wisconsin denied a motion to unseal documents last week in a lawsuit attempting to end an investigation into Wisconsin Republican campaign finances.

On May 1, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with four other media organizations, filed a motion to intervene and unseal the entirety of the parties’ filings in the federal court proceeding O’Keefe v. Schmitz et. al.

Colorado court refuses to close jury selection process in Holmes theater-shooting case

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | June 13, 2014
June 13, 2014

A Colorado district court judge on Wednesday rejected the defendant’s request to close the jury selection process for the Aurora theater shooting trial.

Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour denied the request for complete closure to the public and the media and the prosecution’s request for partial closure of the selection process. Instead, the court opted to open the entire process, only withholding the names of prospective and seated jurors and the jury questionnaires.