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In re: Application of Jason Leopold and BuzzFeed, Inc. for Access to Certain Sealed Court Records

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  1. Court Access

Case Number: 1:20-mc-00095

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Clients: Jason Leopold, BuzzFeed

Application for Public Access to Sealed Records Filed: Sept. 17, 2020

Background: On May 31, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice granted the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s request for a temporary authorization expanding the agency’s law enforcement authority, empowering it to enforce all federal criminal laws nationwide in the wake of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020.

On behalf of journalist Jason Leopold and BuzzFeed, Reporters Committee attorneys filed an application with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking an order unsealing three categories of court records related to requests for judicial authorization for the agency to engage in electronic surveillance in connection with the temporary delegation of so-called “non-Title 21 [law] enforcement duties.”

The application followed a July 7, 2020, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a separate unsealing matter, in which the court ruled in favor of Leopold and the Reporters Committee and held that there is a common law presumption of access to judicial records connected to applications and orders under the Stored Communications Act, and that applications for access under the Pen Register Act must use the same balancing test used in evaluating motions to unseal material subject to the common law right.

Quote: “Unsealing the … Materials requested by Applicants will shed light on the DEA’s extraordinary involvement in the federal law enforcement response to the nationwide protests that began after the killing of George Floyd. Specifically, it will help inform the public about the DEA’s use of electronic surveillance tools in connection with those protests.”

Filings: 

2020-09-17: Application of Jason Leopold and BuzzFeed, Inc. for public access to certain sealed court records

2020-09-17: Memorandum of points and authorities in support of application

2020-09-17: Exhibit A

2020-09-17: Exhibit B

2020-10-12: Response of Jason Leopold and BuzzFeed to order to show cause

2020-11-06: Government’s reply and opposition to petitioner’s application to unseal

2020-11-13: Reply to government’s reply and opposition