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Zelaya v. Hammer

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  1. Court Access

Case Number: 3:19-cv-00062-TRM-CHS

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee

Client: States Newsroom

Motion to Intervene Filed: Aug. 10, 2022

Background: In 2019, Latino employees of a meatpacking plant in eastern Tennessee filed a class action lawsuit against federal and state law enforcement agents who participated in a workplace immigration raid in 2018.

The lawsuit claims that law enforcement agents targeted the plant’s Latino workers, subjecting them to aggressive treatment and prolonged detentions. An investigation by the Tennessee Lookout, an online news outlet, revealed that a camera at the plant captured one federal agent putting his boot on the neck of a Latino worker.

Certain law enforcement agents named as defendants in the lawsuit asked the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee to seal the video and redact from the public record a paragraph describing it.

On behalf of States Newsroom — publisher of the Tennessee Lookout — Reporters Committee Local Legal Initiative Attorney Paul McAdoo filed a motion to intervene and oppose the sealing of the records. The motion argues that the court records in question should be open to public inspection under both the common law and First Amendment.

Quote: ““The alleged violations of workers’ civil rights at the hands of federal agents make clear the need for case records, including videos, to be unsealed so journalists can tell a clear and full story to the public,” said Holly McCall, editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Lookout. “The allegations of brutality would be severe enough had they occurred in private industry, but that government agents are the alleged perpetrators makes them more serious and violate the public trust. ”

Update: On Aug. 12, 2022, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger denied the defendants’ motion to seal and ordered that the records in question be made public, with any personal identifying information redacted. The motion filed by States Newsroom was denied as moot after the court issued its order.

Filings:

2022-08-10: Motion to intervene

2022-08-10: Memorandum of law in support of motion to intervene

2022-08-12: Order