Sealed records

Giuffre v. Maxwell

September 20, 2017

Appellants Alan Dershowitz and Michael Cernovich sought access to certain sealed judicial records in Giuffre v. Maxwell, a defamation action in the Southern District of New York. The district court entered a standing order in the case permitting the parties to file documents under seal without first seeking judicial approval, resulting in the filing of the majority of the substantive papers in the case under seal, including the papers in support of an opposition to the Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The amicus brief argues, among other things, that the district court's order permitting the sealing is contrary to the First Amendment and common law presumptions of access, and there are no compelling or countervailing interests justifying sealing in this case.

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.

Bankruptcy court continues investigation into Bloomberg sources; two hearings scheduled for today

Press Release | January 20, 2016
January 20, 2016

A federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware yesterday denied a motion by Bloomberg News, without oral argument, to suspend an overreaching investigation into contacts between its reporters and the parties in a bankruptcy proceeding.

The court’s sweeping order demanded all parties reveal knowledge of any contacts with Bloomberg reporters over the previous 60 days, which could affect contacts unrelated to the three stories the court identified as containing certain information covered by a protective order.

Bloomberg immediately appealed to the federal district court, but the district court declined to act yesterday.

Reporters Committee leads coalition objecting to bankruptcy court investigation of Bloomberg sources

Press Release | January 18, 2016
January 18, 2016

A Delaware bankruptcy judge’s order demanding that more than 100 individuals in a case before him disclose all their contacts with any Bloomberg reporters in the last 60 days is overly broad and interferes with reporters’ First Amendment freedoms, the Reporters Committee argued in a letter to the judge on behalf of a media coalition.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher S. Sontchi issued the order last Thursday, demanding that a long list of individuals associated with the debtors and creditors in the bankruptcy of Molycorp, Inc., disclose within 5 days any contacts with Bloomberg reporters, or any knowledge of anyone else’s contact with those reporters.

In re Molycorp, Inc.

January 16, 2016

A Delaware bankruptcy judge demanded that more than 100 individuals involved in the bankruptcy proceedings concerning Molycorp Inc. disclose all their contacts with any Bloomberg reporters in the last 60 days, after he saw several articles that he felt contained information subject to a confidentiality order. The Reporters Committee argued in a letter to the judge on behalf of a media coalition that the order is overly broad and interferes with reporters’ First Amendment freedoms.

Dwyer v. United States v. John Doe

March 5, 2015

Independent journalist Johnny Dwyer sued to unseal case documents in a criminal proceeding against a John Doe defendant who pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges. The Eastern District of New York granted a motion to close the courtroom and to seal all case documents. The sealing order was itself sealed. Dwyer intervened and sought to unseal the record. The district court denied the motion to unseal. Dwyer appealed to the Second Circuit.

California appellate court vacates prior restraint order

Tom Isler | Prior Restraints | News | April 20, 2015
News
April 20, 2015

A California appellate court reversed course on Friday and vacated what media lawyers described as an unconstitutional prior restraint order.

Last month, the court sealed a legal brief filed by the Pasadena Police Officers Association that quoted from a confidential report on the 2012 police shooting of teenager Kendrec McDade. The court’s order also directed the parties to the lawsuit, including the Los Angeles Times, which had long sought to obtain the report, to return all copies of the brief to the court. The police union didn’t move to seal the brief until nine days after it had been filed.

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

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

Pasadena Police Officers Ass’n v. L.A. Cnty. Superior Court

March 26, 2015

In October 2014, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the Pasadena Police Officers Association (PPOA) to release a redacted copy of a report produced by the Office of Independent Review Group for the City of Pasadena that reviewed police department policies in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed teenager. In January, the L.A. Times filed a petition for writ of mandate with the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, in California for release of the report. The PPOA quoted from the report liberally in its reply brief, which was filed publicly without redaction, and the brief was distributed to the parties. Nine days later, PPOA sought to replace the unredacted copy of the brief with a redacted version, to file the unredacted version under seal, and to have the parties return their copy of the unredacted brief to the court. The Court of Appeal issued the order. The L.A.

South Carolina Supreme Court lifts prior restraint in James Brown estate case

Tom Isler | Prior Restraints | News | March 10, 2015
News
March 10, 2015

The Supreme Court of South Carolina has dissolved a prior restraint against a small-town newspaper reporter covering the ongoing legal battle for the estate of singer James Brown.

The reporter, Sue Summer, had received an anonymous package containing the diary of Tommie Rae Hynie Brown, who was recently recognized by a South Carolina court as the widow of James Brown. The diary, which was filed under seal with the court, contained passages that seemed to imply that Ms. Brown was not, in fact, married to Mr. Brown.