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Third Circuit unseals transcript, recording of argument in boarding school case

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  1. Court Access
RCFP attorneys sought the unsealing on behalf of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Photo of Milton Hershey School. Via Flickr

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit granted on Monday the Philadelphia Inquirer’s motion to unseal an audio recording and transcript of recent oral argument in a case involving allegations of wrongdoing at one of the nation’s wealthiest charitable schools.

Attorneys for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press had sought to unseal the November argument on behalf of the newspaper, citing the significant public interest in the lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s Milton Hershey School. Audio of the oral argument was not livestreamed on the Third Circuit’s YouTube channel, contrary to the court’s standard practice during the Covid-19 pandemic, nor was a transcript or recording made publicly available following the argument on Nov. 16.

The case, Wartluft v. Milton Hershey School, involves allegations that the school’s actions led to the death of a 14-year-old student once in its care. The Inquirer has extensively covered allegations made against the boarding school in this and other lawsuits.

Reporters Committee attorneys previously helped the newspaper unseal court records in an appeal from an administrative proceeding involving the Milton Hershey School and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. They continue to represent the Inquirer in the paper’s fight for transparency in matters involving the school.

The Third Circuit’s decision to unseal the transcript in an unredacted form was an unexpected victory for the Inquirer — and for members of the public interested in monitoring the school’s legal issues. The court initially directed the Milton Hershey School to propose redactions, but upon review it directed the school to file the transcript and recording fully unredacted.

Listen to an audio recording of the oral argument.

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.

Photo by Inside the Magic

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