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In re application of PennLive, York Daily Record, and York Dispatch to Unseal Court Records

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  1. Court Access

Case Number: 1:22-mc-00756-SES

Court: U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Clients: PennLive, York Daily Record, York Dispatch

Application to Unseal Court Records Filed: Sept. 29, 2022

Background: As part of its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the FBI executed a warrant on Aug. 9, 2022, to seize the cell phone of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) while he was on vacation with his family in New Jersey.

The congressman shared the news of the seizure with Fox News and sued the U.S. Department of Justice, seeking the return of data cloned from his phone. But the warrant materials themselves remain under seal, despite the extensive information about Perry’s involvement in the events under investigation that has already been made public as a result of news reporting and the work of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

On behalf of PennLive, the York Daily Record, and the York Dispatch, Reporters Committee attorneys filed a motion to unseal court records related to the seizure of Perry’s cell phone, including the warrant application, any supporting affidavits, and the docket sheet. The news outlets argue that the press and public have a presumptive common law and First Amendment right of access to the search warrant materials.

Quote: “The seizure of Congressman Perry’s phone is a subject of enormous, legitimate public interest. For one, a search of the property of a sitting Member of Congress is a matter of paramount public concern because it raises unique separation-of-power concerns.”

Related: Reporters Committee attorneys spent more than a year and a half helping the Los Angeles Times make public court records related to the Justice Department’s closed insider-trading investigation of U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). In early September 2022, a federal judge ordered the government to file records that revealed much more than what it previously disclosed in heavily blacked out court filings released months earlier — filings the government originally attempted to keep secret entirely.

Reporters Committee attorneys are currently litigating a similar case on behalf of five news outlets in an effort to pry loose search warrant materials related to the FBI’s search of the home and campaign office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

Filings:

2022-09-29: Application to unseal court records

2022-09-29: Memorandum of points and authorities in support of application to unseal court records

2022-10-24: Opposition to government’s motion to seal its response

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