Secret dockets

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.

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.

In Re Applications to Unseal

May 8, 2014

The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in support of an effort to unseal documents in a 15 year-old case, USA v. John Doe. In the underlying case, Felix Sater was accused of large-scale financial crimes, and pleaded guilty to lesser charges after agreeing to cooperate with government officials. Appellants argue that the secrecy the government afforded to Sater – his case was not on the public docket for over a decade – allowed him to defraud other investors. We argued that it is especially important that the Court follow the constitutional and common-law rights of access in this case because the press has a duty to monitor whether the government is giving informants special protections.

Records in corporate challenge to government product-safety database must be open

Jamie Schuman | Secret Courts | News | April 17, 2014
April 17, 2014

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit instructed a Maryland district court yesterday to unseal in its entirety a consumer safety case that a company had sought to close on the grounds that disclosure would injure its reputation.

In 2011, a yet-to-be-identified manufacturer sued to stop the Consumer Product Safety Commission from publishing on an online database a report that one of its products caused an infant to die. After the district court sealed most of the record and let the company use a pseudonym, three consumer advocacy groups – Public Citizen, Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union – challenged the decision.

Colorado court denies attempt to restrict access to court records in James Holmes murder case

Latara Appleby | Secret Courts | News | November 25, 2013
November 25, 2013

The District Court in Arapahoe County, Colo. has denied an attempt by defense lawyers to restrict access to court records in the case of alleged Colorado theater gunman James Holmes.

Holmes had asked the court to suppress all transcripts of the proceedings and the register of actions, and deny electronic access to the records in the case. The court denied the request without a hearing on Nov. 22.

Alabama blogger still in jail after violating take-down order in libel suit

Jamie Schuman | Prior Restraints | News | November 6, 2013
November 6, 2013

Two weeks after his arrest, the Alabama blogger found to have violated a judge’s order not to publish certain stories remains in jail and without an opportunity to challenge the contempt order.

Secret surveillance court's ruling paves the way for public disclosure of Yahoo's 2008 fight against PRISM

Rob Tricchinelli | Secret Courts | News | July 16, 2013
July 16, 2013

An order Monday from the United States’ secret surveillance court has brought several documents a step closer to being made public, after a disclosure request from Internet service provider Yahoo.

Yahoo sought the public release of a 2008 case, in which it challenged a surveillance order in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) but lost, therefore requiring its compliance in the National Security Agency's PRISM program.

D.C. appeals court to consider issuing redacted opinion in high-profile sealed case

Rob Tricchinelli | Secret Courts | News | March 29, 2013
March 29, 2013

In response to a letter from the Reporters Committee, a federal appeals court has taken a critical first step toward unsealing an opinion in a high-profile Washington, D.C. corruption case.

The appellate court treated the letter as a motion to intervene and unseal part of the record. The court ordered the parties to respond and suggest redactions to its opinion within 30 days.

Reporters Committee asks Supreme Court to clarify high standard for sealing entire cases, dockets

Press Release | August 27, 2012
August 27, 2012
Reporters Committee asks Supreme Court to clarify high standard for sealing entire cases, dockets

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case involving a 12-year, blanket sealing order in a criminal case alleging organized crime, racketeering, conspiracy and fraud.

Attorney asks U.S. Supreme Court to consider constitutionality of years-old blanket sealing order

Kristen Rasmussen | Secret Courts | News | August 6, 2012
August 6, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court recently released dozens of documents about a businessman turned government witness as part of a request that the high court find that a 12-year-old blanket sealing order in the case amounts to an unconstitutional prior restraint.