C. Grand jury proceedings and records
Grand jury proceedings
“Since the 17th century, grand jury proceedings have been closed to the public, and records of such proceedings have been kept from the public eye.” Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 218 n.9 (1979). Courts applying the Press-Enterprise test have made clear that there is no First Amendment right of public access to grand jury proceedings. For example, the court in United States v. Smith, 123 F.3d 140, 148 (3d Cir. 1997), found that “grand jury proceedings are not subject to a First Amendment right of access under the [Press-Enterprise] test of ‘experience and logic.’” Participants, except witnesses, generally are forbidden from disclosing matters related to the grand jury, even after the grand jury’s activities have concluded.
The Federal Rules also provide: "Subject to any right to an open hearing in a contempt proceeding, the court must close any hearing to the extent necessary to prevent disclosure of a matter occurring before a grand jury." Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(5). Such ancillary proceedings often involve matters such as motions to quash grand jury subpoenas, motions requesting immunity from prosecution and motions to compel testimony. If a court “can allow some public access without risking disclosure of grand jury matters . . . Rule 6(e)(5) contemplates that this shall be done.” In re Dow Jones & Co., 142 F.3d 496, 502 (D.C. Cir. 1998).
Exceptions to this secrecy exist in some states. California Penal Code Section 939.1, for example, provides that where the court “finds that the subject matter of the investigation affects the general public welfare” it “may make an order directing the grand jury to conduct its investigation in a session or sessions open to the public.”
Grand Jury Records
Records of federal grand jury proceedings remain confidential “to the extent and as long as necessary to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of a matter occurring before a grand jury.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(e)(6). It is left to the court to determine when to release such records, and the Third Circuit noted that there is no presumptive First Amendment or common law right of access to court documents involving materials presented before a grand jury. United States v. Smith, 123 F.3d 140, 143 (3d Cir. 1997). Access to state grand jury transcripts varies. California Penal Code Section 938.1, for example, provides that the grand jury “transcript shall not be open to the public until 10 days after its delivery to the defendant or the defendant’s attorney,” but “[t]hereafter the transcript shall be open to the public unless the court orders otherwise.”
The federal circuits are split on whether federal courts have inherent authority to disclose historic grand jury records. Compare McKeever v. Barr, 920 F.3d 842 (D.C. Cir. 2019) (finding that courts lack such inherent authority) and Pitch v. United States, 953 F.3d 1226 (11th Cir. 2020) (en banc) (same) with Carlson v. United States, 837 F.3d 753 (7th Cir. 2016) (recognizing courts’ authority to release grand jury records) and In re Petition of Craig, 131 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 1997) (same).
“Since the 17th century, grand jury proceedings have been closed to the public.” United States v. Maravilla, 566 Fed. Appx. 704, 707 (10th Cir. 2014) (citing Douglas Oil Co. of Cal. V. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 218 n.9 (1979)). Likewise, “records of such proceedings have been kept from the public eye.” Id. (citing Douglas Oil Co. of Cal. V. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 218 n.9 (1979)).
The right of access does not extend to grand jury proceedings. Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211 (1979). The public also has no right to a statement of reasons or a hearing on the closure of grand jury proceedings. In re Subpoena, 864 F. 2d 1559 (11th Cir. 1989). Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits the disclosure of grand jury material by certain people (e.g., the grand jurors and government attorneys), except under the limited circumstances provided by Rule 6(e)(3). This prohibition means that "records, orders and subpoenas relating to grand jury proceedings must be kept under seal to the extent and as long as necessary to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of a matter occurring before a grand jury." Jane Doe #1 v. United States, No. 08-80736-CIV-MARRA, 2013 WL 12080929, *2 (S.D. Fla. 2013). That district court held that courts are not compelled to adopt the least restrictive means to protect secrecy of pending grand jury proceedings. Id.
On grounds of compelling necessity, a court may prohibit disclosure of materials prepared for or statements presented in grand jury proceedings that would reveal the investigation’s direction, the identity of those being investigated or those who may testify, or any other secret aspect of the proceedings. Id.; see also United States v. Aisenberg, 358 F.3d 1327, 1346 (11th Cir. 2004). In United States v. Sierra, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the trial court holding that secrecy interests in grand jury and jury selection outweighed the public’s rights where the contested transcripts contained references to then pending grand jury proceedings and investigations. 784 F.2d 1518 (11th Cir. 1986).
In deciding whether or not to disclose grand jury testimony, the Eleventh Circuit relies on the Supreme Court's Douglas Oil balancing test. Aisenberg, 358 F.3d at 1348. The test requires parties seeking disclosure to show (1) that the material they seek is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding; (2) that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy; and (3) that their request is structured to cover only material so needed. Id.
In Pitch v. United States, the full Eleventh Circuit held that district courts lack inherent, supervisory power to authorize the disclosure of grand jury records outside of Rule 6(e)’s enumerated exceptions. 953 F.3d 1226 (11th Cir. 2020) (en banc).
“The public has no right to attend grand jury proceedings. . . . In contrast to criminal trials, grand jury proceedings have traditionally been closed to the public and the accused.” Globe Newspaper Co. v. Pokaski, 86 F.2d 497, 509 (1st Cir. 1989); see also In re Special Proceedings, 373 F.3d 37, 46-47 (1st Cir. 2004) (“There is no general right of public access to the proceedings of a grand jury or to documents generated by those proceedings.”). The First Circuit has recognized that documents “sealed as part of the investigation by a special prosecutor” engaged in efforts “sufficiently like what a grand jury” does are also presumptively closed to the public. 373 F.3d at 47.
Because there is no right to attend grand jury proceedings, the public “therefore has no right to grand jury records.” Globe Newspaper Co. v. Pokaski, 86 F.2d 497, 509 (1st Cir. 1989).
In general, grand jury proceedings are not subject to the traditional presumption in favor of public access to judicial proceedings. In re Grand Jury Subpoenas, No. 15-mc-71 (VEC), 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146148, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 18, 2016) (citing Doe No. 4 v. Doe No. 1 (In re Grand Jury Subpoena), 103 F.3d 234, 242 (2d Cir. 1996)). The Court in In re Grand Jury Subpoena, upheld closure of hearing on propriety of government subpoenas and surveillance undertaken pursuant to grand jury proceedings. 103 F. 3d 234 (2d Cir. 1996) (holding that the overriding interest in secrecy of grand jury proceedings—at least until they are complete—outweighs the qualified right of access); see also In re Rosahn, 671 F. 2d 690 (2d Cir. 1982) (reversing closure of contempt proceedings of grand jury witness).
In deciding whether or not to disclose grand jury testimony, the Second Circuit relies on the Supreme Court’s Douglas Oil balancing test. In re Petition of Craig, 131 F.3d 99, 104 (2d Cir. 1997). The Supreme Court in Douglas Oil required that “[p]arties seeking grand jury transcripts under Rule 6(e) must show that the material they seek is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding, that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy, and that their request is structured to cover only material so needed.” Douglas Oil Co. of California v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 222 (1979). In applying the Douglas Oil test, the Second Circuit has found instances in which disclosure of grand jury documents was inappropriate. See, e.g., In re Grand Jury Subpoena, 103 F.3d 234 (2d Cir. 1996) (holding that although appellants may have had a qualified right to access the proceeding it was overcome by the government's interest in maintaining the secrecy of the grand jury process”); Kamasinski v. Judicial Review Council, 44 F.3d 106, 111 (2d Cir. 1994) (concluding that a “limited ban on disclosure of the fact of filing or the fact that testimony was given does not run afoul of the First Amendment,” and “the ban on disclosure is constitutional only so long as the [government] acts in its investigatory capacity”).
“Since the 17th century, grand jury proceedings have been closed to the public, and records of such proceedings have been kept from the public eye.” Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Northwest, 441 U.S. 211, 218 n.9 (1979).
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that: “Subject to any right to an open hearing in a contempt proceeding, the court must close any hearing to the extent necessary to prevent disclosure of a matter occurring before a grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim P. 6(e)(5).
In United States v. Smith, the Third Circuit held that “grand jury proceedings are not subject to a First Amendment right of access.” 123 F.3d 140, 148 (3d Cir. 1997). The Third Circuit has also held that there is no presumptive right of access to criminal proceedings where “grand jury materials are involved.” In re Newark Morning Ledger, Co., 260 F.3d 217, 222 (3d Cir. 2001). The Third Circuit explained that closure of a hearing is warranted if it “would necessarily disclose grand jury matters.” Id. at 224 (citing Smith, 123 F.3d at 150). Rather, the Third Circuit has held that courts should close the initial proceedings; determine if the hearing contains grand jury information; and then “inform the parties that [the court] will disclose all nonsecret aspects of . . . the hearing” once the determination is made. Id. at 225 (quoting Smith, 123 F.3d at 152–54).
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure instruct courts to keep grand jury records “under seal to the extent and as long as necessary to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of a matter occurring before a grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6.
However, information or documents are not protected under the grand jury exception to the presumptive right of access just because the information was presented to a grand jury—especially if the information was developed “independently” and “outside the grand jury process.” United States v. Chang, 47 F. App’x 119, 121–22 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing In re Grand Jury Matter, 697 F.2d 511, 513 (3d Cir. 1982); In re Grand Jury Matter, 682 F.2d 61, 63 (3d Cir. 1982)). In other words, documents that are prepared independent of the grand jury, even if intended to be used in grand jury proceedings, are not subject to the exception for grand jury materials. See id.
Grand jury participants are generally forbidden from disclosing matters related to the grand jury, even after the grand jury’s activities have concluded, although this rule does not apply to witnesses. See Butterworth v. Smith, 494 U.S. 624, 632 (1990).
There is no First Amendment right of access to grand jury proceedings, as they have traditionally been closed to the public, and public access does not play a significant positive role in the functioning of grand jury proceedings. See Press-Enter. Co. v. Super. Ct., 478 U.S. 1, 8–9 (1986).
“Since the 17th century, grand jury proceedings have been closed to the public, and records of such proceedings have been kept from the public eye.” Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 219 (1979).
The Supreme Court has explained that a party seeking disclosure of grand jury materials must make a showing of a “particularized need” by demonstrating that (1) the materials are needed to avoid an injustice in another proceeding; (2) the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy; and (3) the request is structured to cover only needed materials. United States v. Moussaoui, 483 F.3d 220, 235 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 222 (1979)).
In an appeal involving a motion to quash a grand jury subpoena, the Fourth Circuit conducted oral argument in camera and sealed its decision to maintain the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings. See In re Grand Jury Subpoena John Doe, No. 05GJ1318, 584 F.3d 175, 178 n.1 (4th Cir. 2009) (deferring to the district court, in its supervisory capacity for the grand jury proceedings, to determine when the opinions (or any part thereof) should be unsealed and made public).
See generally, Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governing secrecy of grand jury proceedings.
The First Amendment does not require public access to grand jury materials submitted to aid the district court during sentencing. See United States v. Foggo, 595 F. Supp. 2d 672, 680–81 (E.D. Va. 2009).
In general, courts have little authority over the proceedings of a grand jury. In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 115 F.3d 1240, 1243 (5th Cir. 1997).
Under both federal and state law, a general rule of secrecy shrouds the proceedings of grand juries. Shields v. Twiss, 389 F.3d 142, 147 (5th Cir. 2004). Maintaining the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings protects several important interests of the government and private citizens. First, it prevents individuals under potential indictment from fleeing the jurisdiction or tampering with jurors or witnesses appearing before the grand jury. Second, people with information about crimes would be less willing to appear and speak frankly. Third, the rule avoids injuring the reputation of persons accused of a crime whom the grand jury does not indict. And fourth, secrecy encourages grand jurors to investigate suspected crimes without inhibition and to engage in unfettered deliberations. In re Grand Jury Investigation, 610 F.2d 202, 213 (5th Cir. 1980).
However, both federal and state law permit discovery of grand jury material when the party seeking discovery demonstrates a “particularized need” for the material. Shields, 389 F.3d at 147; see also In re Grand Jury Testimony, 832 F.2d 60, 62 (5th Cir. 1987) (stating that grand jury materials can be released where a party demonstrates with particularity a “compelling” necessity for the materials.) The party seeking discovery has the burden of showing (1) that the material is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding; (2) that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for secrecy; and (3) that its request is structured to cover only the material so needed. Shields, 389 F.3d at 147. A party should also show that the information cannot readily be acquired through some other means. In re Petition for Disclosure of Evidence Taken Before the Special Grand Jury Convened on May 8, 1978, 650 F.2d 599, 600 (5th Cir. 1981). These requirements must be satisfied even if the grand jury whose materials are sought has concluded its operations. United States v. Miramontez, 995 F.2d 56, 58 (5th Cir. 1993). Ordinarily, the media will not be able to obtain grand jury testimony unless it is a party to the case (and even then only in rare circumstances).
The desire to use grand jury testimony to impeach defendants and refresh their recollections in a related civil case has been held to be a “particularized need” sufficient to overcome the presumption of secrecy, Texas v. U.S. Steel Corp., 546 F.2d 626, 631 (5th Cir. 1977), but the party seeking disclosure must first demonstrate a witness’s actual inability to recall or inconsistent testimony in order to overcome the interest in protecting the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, In re Grand Jury Testimony, 832 F.2d at 63. In general, depositions of witnesses must be taken in a civil case before a party can seek the witnesses’ grand jury testimony. Id.
Appellate review of decisions regarding disclosure of grand jury materials applies an abuse of discretion standard. Id. at 62.
The Freedom of Information Act does not include federal courts, so grand jury records cannot be obtained from courts through FOIA requests. U.S. v. Miramontez, 995 F.2d at 59 n.3.
Matters occurring before a grand jury can be disclosed when so directed by a court before or in connection with a judicial proceeding. But the policy of grand jury secrecy must be given great weight. In re Petition for Disclosure of Evidence Taken Before the Special Grand Jury Convened on May 8, 1978, 650 F.2d at 600. Allegations of public interest alone will not usually constitute sufficient need. Id. at 602.
If the media reveals information about secret grand jury proceedings, it is possible for parties to the proceedings to be held in contempt. Importantly, however, this does not apply to witnesses who testify before the grand jury proceedings. In re Grand Jury Investigation, 610 F.2d at 217.
To establish a violation of grand jury secrecy rules based on media reports about grand jury proceedings, a party must show that the news reports contained information about matters occurring before the grand jury which was disclosed by a party to the grand jury proceedings. In re Grand Jury Investigation, 610 F.2d 202, 214 (5th Cir. 1980). “Matters occurring” before the grand jury include not only information drawn from transcripts of grand jury proceedings, but also anything which may reveal what transpired before the grand jury or what will transpire, such as statements which reveal the identity of persons who will be called to testify, or a report that indicates when the grand jury will return an indictment. Id. at 216-17.
However, the disclosure of information obtained from a source independent of the proceedings does not violate the rule, nor does a general statement of opinion about an individual’s criminal liability, even if such statement is based on knowledge of the grand jury proceedings. In re Grand Jury Investigation, 610 F.2d at 217. In order for a party to be held in contempt, the news reports must indicate that the source of the information is one whose disclosure would violate the federal rule of grand jury secrecy, such as a grand juror, an interpreter, a typist transcribing the proceedings, or an attorney for the government. As noted above, the rule does not forbid disclosure by a witness who testifies before the grand jury. Id. However, it is not necessary for the media report to expressly identify the source of the information if the nature of the information disclosed furnishes the connection. Id. at 218.
“Grand jury proceedings are not conducted in the open, and transcriptions of those proceedings are subject to a rule of secrecy.” Application of Storer Commc’ns, Inc., 828 F.2d 330, 336 (6th Cir. 1987) (citing Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)). “The nature of a grand jury’s work requires that its proceedings remain secret, except where the stringent requirements of Rule 6(e)(3), Fed. R. Crim. P., are satisfied.” Id. (citing Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 218 (1979)).
Relying on Douglas Oil, the Sixth Circuit has explained that “parties seeking disclosure of [grand jury] transcripts under Rule 6(e)(3) must show that the material they seek is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding and the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy.” In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 649 F.2d 387, 388 (6th Cir. 1981). The proper process is to make an initial inquiry with the supervising court to decide “if there is any special need for continuing secrecy of the grand jury proceedings” and then go to the other court “for a determination of the need for disclosure.” Id. at 388-89. But, if the original court “can reasonably obtain sufficient knowledge of the proceeding to determine whether disclosure is proper,” then it may keep the case. In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 841 F.2d 1264, 1268 (6th Cir. 1988) (quoting Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(3)(e)). “[T]he litigation court then must balance the need for disclosure against the need for secrecy.” In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 649 F.2d at 389. And “a motion for disclosure of grand jury transcripts is not a prerequisite for a motion to transfer the transcripts.” Id.
It is “only in cases of ‘compelling necessity;’ i.e., where there is proof that without access to the grand jury materials a litigant’s position would be ‘greatly prejudiced’ or ‘an injustice would be done” where disclosure of grand jury proceedings or transcripts might be necessary. In re Grand Jury Proceedings, 841 F.2d at 1268 (quoting United States v. P&G, 356 U.S. 677 (1958)). Generally, the need for secrecy related to grand jury proceeding continues even after it has decided not to indict the subject, after the grand jury has been dissolved, and after one that has been indicted pleads guilty. Id.
The need analysis requires that the party seeking disclosure “show that the material they seek is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding, that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy, and that their request is structured to cover only material so needed.” Id. (quoting Douglas Oil, 441 U.S. at 222). Once “a particularized need for disclosure has been demonstrated, a district court that is properly seized of the question is given wide discretion to decide whether it is the need for secrecy that predominates, or the need for disclosure.” Id. at 1268–69 (citing United States v. John Does, Inc. I, 481 U.S. 102, 115–16 (1987)).
“Several courts have . . . held that the first amendment right of access does not comprehend grand jury proceedings, since grand juries have traditionally conducted their investigations in closed hearings, and secrecy is necessary in order for the grand jury to carry out its investigative function.” United States v. Corbitt, 879 F.2d 224, 237 n. 15 (7th Cir. 1989) (citing Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 9, 106 S. Ct. 2735, 2741 (1986) (dictum; “there are some kinds of government operations that would be totally frustrated if conducted openly. A classic example is that ‘the proper functioning of our grand jury system depends upon the secrecy of grand jury proceedings’”)).
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) “codifies the centuries-old requirement that grand jury proceedings be kept secret.” In re Eye Care Physicians of Am., 100 F.3d 514, 518 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Matter of Grand Jury Proceedings, 942 F.2d 1195, 1198 (7th Cir. 1991)). “Our judicial system has recognized that the proper functioning of grand jury proceedings depends upon their absolute secrecy.” Id.; Lucas v. Turner, 725 F.2d 1095, 1100 (7th Cir. 1984). See also N.D. Ind. Local. Crim. R. 6-1 (procedures for grand juries; “[w]hile a grand jury is in session, no one may be in the hall leading to the rooms or areas used by the grand jury or anyplace where witnesses before the grand jury can be seen or heard”); S.D. Ind. Local Crim. R. 10-1.
One seeking disclosure of grand jury proceedings must demonstrate “‘compelling necessity’ for the material,” even when the grand jury has concluded its operations. In re Eye Care Physicians, 100 F.3d at 518 (quoting Hernly v. United States, 832 F.2d 980, 983-84 (7th Cir. 1987)); Lucas, 725 F.2d at 1107.
“Yet the rule of grand jury secrecy is not absolute. For instance, the secrecy requirement does not apply to grand jury witnesses, who are permitted to publicly disclose the questions they were asked and the answers they gave.” Carlson v. United States, 109 F.Supp.3d 1025, 1028-29 (N.D. Ill. 2015), aff’d, 837 F.3d 753 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)); see also Worrell Newspapers of lnd., Inc. v. Westhafer, 739 F. 2d 1219, 1223 (7th Cir. 1984), aff’d, 469 U.S. 1200 (1985) (“[T]he secrecy provision in Rule 6(e) applies, by its terms, only to individuals who are privy to the information contained in a sealed document by virtue of their positions in the criminal justice system”).
“The party seeking disclosure of grand jury materials must show a ‘compelling necessity’ or ‘particularized need’ for the grand jury materials; where an appropriate showing has been made, the district court must take care to disclose materials ‘discretely and limitedly.’” Corbitt, 879 F.2d at 239 n. 17.
In Carlson, the court unsealed transcripts of testimony from a 1942 grand jury investigation of newspaper's alleged Espionage Act violations during World War II ; author and historical organizations sought disclosure for scholarly purposes, the government identified no specific reason that release would threaten national security or otherwise cause harm, and no witnesses or other third parties had come forward to express concerns about release. “Because grand-jury transcripts are, in their very nature, judicial documents (just as a transcript of a trial would be), there is no need for them to become part of the judicial proceeding through admission into evidence” in order to be subject to the access right asserted by plaintiff. Carlson v. United States, 837 F.3d at 760 The court held that “the disclosure of sealed grand jury materials is ‘committed to the discretion of the trial judge,’” and this inherent power was not abrogated by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (in particular Rule 6(e)). Id. at 761-67.
Grand jury proceedings are generally closed to the public and the press, and no First Amendment right of access exists for them. Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California for Riverside Cty., 478 U.S. 1, 10 (1986).
The Supreme Court has stated that “the proper functioning of our grand jury system depends upon the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.” Douglas Oil Co. of California v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 218 (1979). A party seeking disclosure of grand jury materials must demonstrate a “particularized need” that outweighs the need for secrecy. Id. at 212.
There appears to be no Eighth Circuit case law specifically discussing grand jury proceedings and records.
The presumption of openness that attaches to criminal proceedings in general does not apply to grand jury proceedings. Ex parte Birmingham News Co., 624 So. 2d 1117, 1128 (Ala. Crim. App. 1993). The standard for determining when the traditional secrecy of the grand jury may be broken is deliberately stringent: parties seeking disclosure of grand jury transcripts must show that the material they seek is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding, that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy, and that their request is structured to cover only material so needed. Id. (citing Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Northwest, 441 U.S. 211, 222 (1979)). The Supreme Court of Alabama further stated that “[p]ut simply, the secrecy of the grand jury proceeding will not be broken except where the party seeking disclosure can show a ‘compelling necessity’ or a ‘particularized need.’” Ex parte Birmingham News Co., 624 So. 2d at 1128.
There is no precedent in Alabama for discovery of the names and addresses of the grand jury members. Ex parte State, 738 So. 2d 1140, 1142 (Ala. Crim. App. 1998) (“The ramifications of disclosing the names of grand jury members are too great to comprehend. It is safe to conclude that the number of indictments would decrease drastically and the function of the grand jury would be greatly hindered if the grand jurors’ names were not secret. The secrecy of the grand jury proceedings is well-grounded in this country’s jurisprudence and has protected the grand jury system.”).
Grand juries are an arm of the court system, and as such their operations are governed by rules of administration, practice and procedure that the Supreme Court is constitutionally empowered to promulgate. O’Leary v. Superior Court, 816 P.2d 163, 170 (Alaska 1991). Grand juries generally operate in secret, with limited exceptions to enable prosecutors to perform their duties. However, returns of indictments to the superior court are public proceedings, unless the court directs that the proceedings be closed to the public and the indictment be kept secret until a defendant is in custody or has given bail. Alaska Crim. R. Pro. 6(l). And no obligation of secrecy may be imposed on any person in connection with grand jury proceedings except in accordance with Criminal Rule 6, which says that a judge, juror, attorney, court employees or related staff can disclose matters only when so directed by the court preliminary to or in connection with a judicial or administrative proceeding. As a practical matter, that leaves grand jury witnesses as the sole exception. Even if a witness is required by a grand jury or other government officials to promise to keep his or her testimony secret, that promise is unenforceable. As the Alaska Supreme Court noted in In re Hanson, 532 P.2d 303, 314 and n.37 (Alaska 1975), the purpose of the rule that no obligation of secrecy may be imposed upon a witness who appears before a grand jury is “to prevent the injustice that could result ‘if a witness (were) not permitted to make a disclosure to counsel or to an associate.’ The salutary objective of the rule would be thwarted if we were to sanction nondisclosure obligations prohibited by Criminal Rule 6(1). As a witness, petitioner was not bound by his promise, which the grand jury had no authority to extract.” The footnote cites federal authorities, and notes that the same rule applies in the federal courts.
Grand jury testimony and records relied upon by a grand jury typically become public if and only when they are attached to documents filed with the court or otherwise used in subsequent court proceedings. The indictment itself is a public record and includes the names of witness examined before the grand jury. Alaska Crim. R. 7; O’Leary v. Superior Court, 816 P.2d 163, 178 (Alaska 1991) (dissenting op. by Compton, J.).
Alaska Crim. R. 6(n)(3) provides that if an indictment is endorsed by a grand jury as “a true bill,” it shall be presented in open court, filed with the clerk, and open to public inspection. If an indictment is endorsed “not a true bill” and a complaint or information was previously filed in a district court, the indictment shall be presented in open court and filed with the clerk where it shall be open to public inspection. If an indictment is endorsed “not a true bill” and no complaint or information was previously filed in district court, the indictment shall be filed with the clerk and held under seal. Crim. R. 6(n)(4) provides that if no indictment is found, the court shall hold the minutes, log notes, and record of the grand jury proceeding under seal. If an indictment is found, the log notes, transcript, and record of the grand jury proceeding will be confidential, as defined in Admin. R. 37.5(c), except that the grand jury documents may be used by a party or counsel and by their staff, investigators, experts, and others as necessary for the preparation of the case. This paragraph does not preclude a party from attaching relevant portions of these documents to a pleading or motion, so long as victim and witness information is protected as provided in AS 12.61.100–.150.
The foregoing discussion in this section relate to Alaska state court grand juries. In the federal court, Local Criminal Rule 56.1 of the U.S. District Court for Alaska provides that “All Court-supporting personnel, including but not limited to, marshals, deputy marshals, court clerks, court reporters, and employees or subcontractors retained by the Clerk are prohibited, from disclosing to any person, without authorization by the Court: (1) any information relating to pending grand jury proceedings or a criminal case that is not part of the public records of the Court and that maybe prejudicial to the right of the prosecution or the defense to a fair trial; or (2) any information concerning grand jury proceedings or in camera arguments and hearings held in chambers or otherwise outside the presence of the public.
Investigative Grand Juries
Ordinary grand juries in the Alaska State Court System decide whether a sufficient showing has been made to justify issuing an indictment that requires someone to answer to charges in a criminal prosecution. Alaska court rules also provide for a different kind of grand jury that can investigate and make reports and recommendations concerning the public safety or welfare. Alaska Crim. R. 6.1. Investigative grand juries also generally operate in secret, with the presumption that if the grand jury decides to issue a report, it will be open to public inspection. A grand jury report may include allegations of criminal conduct but can be much broader. However, such public disclosure can only occur if and when the process established in Rule 6.1 has played out to allow for judicial reviews relating to possible infringement of constitutional rights, or addressing objections to portions of the report that adversely impact identified individuals, and to ensure that the grand jury process followed the rules. All proceedings under Rule 6.1 are confidential until the presiding judge orders the report released. In ordering release of a report, the judge may order that a response to the report by a person named or otherwise identified, or other additional materials, be attached to the report as an appendix. The report and any appendices will be filed with the clerk of the court and made available for public inspection. Alaska Crim. R. 6.1(d). The provisions of Rule 6.1 that enable the courts through judicial review to limit the grand jury’s right to publish a report that, for example, improperly infringes upon a person’s constitutional rights, or adversely affect their reputations without substantial evidence, have been found not to violate the First Amendment or state public records act, O’Leary v. Superior Court, 816 P.2d at 173, and to be a constitutionally proper exercise of the court’s power and responsibility to afford due process. Id. at 169–173.
There are two areas of judicial review by the presiding superior court judge that must occur when an investigative grand jury wishes to issue a report. Assuming it is found to be procedurally correct, First, the presiding judge must determine that proper procedures have been followed, and then determine if publication of the report would improperly infringe upon a constitutional right of any person, including but not limited to improper interference with a person’s right to privacy or right to a fair trial in a pending or planned criminal proceeding. Alaska Crim. R. 6.1(b)(2). If the judge finds a problem at this stage, the judge must return the report to the grand jury with an explanation of the reasons for doing so, and the grand jury may conduct further proceedings, revise the report, or seek appellate review of the judge’s decision not to release the report.
Second, if the presiding judge decides that standards concerning possible constitutional infringement have been satisfied, the judge must then determine whether any part of the report may reflect adversely on any person named or otherwise identified in the report. (“Person” includes a natural person or an organization but does not include a governmental subdivision or agency.) If it does, the judge must provide for notice of the report to be given to the affected person, who can request a hearing, in camera on the record. The subject can review the report and record of grand jury proceedings before any such hearing, but can’t disclose any of this with permission from the court, and may submit a written response to the grand jury report, which the person may request that the court issue with the report when the report is made public. If the judge finds the adverse sections of the report were not based on substantial evidence or improperly infringed on the person’s constitutional rights, the judge must return the report to the grand jury with an explanation of why the report has not been released. The court can request that the grand jury consider further evidence as to the named or otherwise identifiable person. The grand jury may conduct further proceedings, revise the report, or seek appellate review of the decision not to release the report. Alaska Crim. R. 6.1(c).
Any named or otherwise identifiable person, the state, or the grand jury by majority vote may seek review by the Alaska Supreme Court of the presiding judge’s decisions to release or not to release the report in whole or in part. The grand jury will be permitted access to the record of the in camera hearing to assist it in determining whether to pursue appellate review, but must shall maintain the confidentiality of this record. The court must withhold publication of the report until the time has passed for motions to be filed under Rule 6.1 by anyone challenging release of the report or portions of it, and any such motions and related appeals have been decided. Alaska Crim. R. 6.1(d). O’Leary v. Superior Court was a 3-2 decision, with two justices dissenting on the grounds that the provisions of Criminal Rule 6.1 permitted prepublication suspension of the grand jury’s report powers and censorship procedures that went beyond what was necessary to provide due process to persons named or otherwise identified in reports. 816 P.2d at 176–179.
Grand jury proceedings are confidential pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-2812. It is a class 1 misdemeanor for a person to disclose “the nature or substance of any grand jury testimony or any decision, result or other matter attending a grand jury proceeding, except in the proper discharge of official duties, at the discretion of the prosecutor to inform a victim of the status of the case or when permitted by the court in furtherance of justice.”
Historically, answers given to questions propounded by a grand jury were not public records. Davis v. Cir. Ct. of Pulaski County, First Div., 244 Ark. 142, 149, 424 S.W.2d 149, 153 (1968); see also Collins v. State, 200 Ark. 1027, 143 S.W.2d 1 (1940) (“[T]he grand jury is an inquisitorial body, the proceedings of which are intended to be kept secret, and cannot be examined and reviewed by a trial court upon a motion to set aside or quash an indictment, except for cause specified by the statute.” (citing State v. Fox, 122 Ark. 197, 182 S.W. 906 (1916)).
California courts do not recognize a First Amendment or common law right of access to grand jury proceedings, transcripts, or other materials. See Daily Journal Corp. v. Superior Court, 20 Cal. 4th 1117, 1132, 979 P.2d 982, 86 Cal. Rptr. 2d 623 (1999); Alvarez v. Superior Court, 154 Cal. App. 4th 642, 652, 64 Cal. Rptr. 3d 854 (2007).
Additionally, grand juries are prohibited from releasing their materials to the public. See McClatchy Newspapers v. Superior Court, 44 Cal. 3d 1162, 1167, 751 P.2d 1329, 245 Cal. Rptr. 774 (1988). Courts also lack the inherent power to disclose grand jury materials. See Daily Journal Corp., 20 Cal. 4th at 1128, 979 P.2d 982, 86 Cal. Rptr. 2d 623 (1999); Goldstein v. Superior Court, 45 Cal. 4th 218, 228-230, 195 P.3d 588, 85 Cal. Rptr. 3d 213 (2008).
The secrecy of grand jury proceedings extends to ancillary proceedings such as motions to quash grand jury subpoenas. See Los Angeles Times v. Superior Court, 114 Cal. App. 4th 247, 7 Cal. Rptr. 3d 524 (2003). Such proceedings must be closed and records sealed “to the extent necessary to prevent disclosure of matters occurring before the grand jury.” Id. at 251.
However, there is a qualified statutory right of access to grand jury transcripts after an indictment has been returned. See Cal. Pen. Code § 938.1(b). The transcripts shall be open to the public 10 days after delivery to the defendant or defendant’s attorney, unless a “court determines that there is a reasonable likelihood that making all or any part of the transcript public may prejudice a defendant’s right to a fair and impartial trial.” Id.; see also Cal. Pen. Code § 929 (authorizing, with the approval of the presiding judge, the release of “evidentiary material, findings, and other information relied upon by, or presented to, a grand jury for its final report in any civil grand jury investigation provided that the name of any person, or facts that lead to the identity of any person who provided information to the grand jury, shall not be released”).
Courts evaluating whether there is a “reasonable likelihood” of prejudice under Section 938.1 consider the “same factors pertinent to a change of venue motion: the size of the potential jury pool and the nature and extent of the publicity,” as well as whether there are reasonable alternatives to sealing. Press-Enterprise v. Superior Court, 22 Cal. App. 4th 498, 503-505, 27 Cal. Rptr. 2d 708 (1994).
Generally, “[b]ecause grand jury secrecy is intended to prevent disclosure of what transpired before the grand jury, the confidentiality extends to witness testimony and other evidence presented to the grant jury, as well as transcripts of the grand jury proceedings.” People v. Thompson, 181 P.3d 1143, 1146–47 (Colo. 2008).
Access to grand jury indictments is governed by the rules for “official actions” under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act, C.R.S. § 24-72-301, et seq. (“CCJRA”). People v. Thompson, 181 P.3d 1143, 1146–47 (Colo. 2008). In Thompson, the Court held that even if the indictment contained “factual information that transpired in the grand jury proceedings, the plain language of sections 24-72-301(2) and 24-72-303(1) requires disclosure nonetheless.” Id. at 1148. The Court declined to address the argument that the trial court’s sealing of factual allegations in the grand jury indictment violated the United States and Colorado Constitutions. Id. at 1145, 1148.
In In re P.R. v. Dist. Court, 637 P.2d 346 (Colo. 1981), the Colorado Supreme Court held that the evidentiary phase of a contempt hearing, stemming from a witness’s refusal to answer questions before a grand jury, “may be closed only upon express findings by the respondent court that: (1) a public hearing would create a clear and present danger to the investigation of matters presently pending before the statutory grand jury; and (2) the prejudicial effect of such information on presently pending grand jury matters cannot be avoided by any reasonable alternative less drastic than closure.” Id. at 353. In doing so, the court distinguished between grand jury proceedings and contempt hearings. Id. at 350–51. The court held that the trial court’s “total closure of the evidentiary phase of the contempt hearing, without a finding of compelling necessity” violated the witness’s due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment “as well as the constitutional interest of the public and the media in attending a judicial proceeding which is the substantial equivalent of a trial” under both the First Amendment and Colorado constitution. Id. at 354. The court also ruled, however, that the “court may hear in camera any testimony relative to the effect of a public hearing on the integrity of grand jury proceedings prior to its ruling on closure, the record of such hearing to be sealed for purposes of appellate review.” Id. The court made clear that “the burden is upon the party seeking closure to establish the factual basis for the application.” Id. at 353.
See also In re Matter of 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jury, 77 P.3d 779 (Colo. App. 2003) (“Although members of the public generally have a right of access to ministerial court records, that right is subject to the rule of grand jury secrecy.”), aff’d, 97 P.3d 921 (Colo. 2004).
Indicting grand juries have not been necessary to prosecute someone under Connecticut law since 1983, and are rarely used. In the event one is impaneled to decide whether a person should be charged with a crime, the proceedings are closed to everyone aside from the prosecutor(s), witness(es), and jurors. E.g., State v. Canady, 187 Conn. 281, 290 (1982). Transcripts of grand jury proceedings are available only to the prosecutor and to the person accused of a crime as a result of the grand jury. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-45a(a).
Connecticut law also provides for investigatory grand juries in certain instances (enumerated in Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 54-47b(2)); these comprise one or three judges rather than a group of laypeople serving as grand jurors. The State’s application requesting an investigatory grand jury and the court order authorizing an investigatory grand jury investigation are both subject to absolute seal. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-47e; In re Judicial Inquiry Number, 293 Conn. 247, 268 (Conn. 2009).
“The finding of the investigation”—which “may include all or such part of the record as the investigatory grand jury may determine”—“shall be open to public inspection and copying,” unless a state prosecutor files a timely objection with the grand jury. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54–47g(b). In that case, the burden is on the objector, who must establish that there is a substantial probability that one of the several enumerated interests will be prejudiced by disclosure, and that there are no reasonable alternatives to nondisclosure. Id.; Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54–47g(c)(1)–(4). After the grand jury holds a hearing to decide the issue, “any person aggrieved by an order of the panel” may appeal, within 72 hours, to the state’s appellate court. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54–47g(b); see also In re Judicial Inquiry No. 2005-02, 293 Conn. 247, 268 (2009) (discussing statute in light of media request for disclosure). Although any part of the record of the investigation the grand jury does not include with its finding is presumptively sealed, “any person may file an application with the panel for disclosure of any such part of the record.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54–47g(a). After a hearing, the panel may, by majority vote, disclose any part of the record it deems to be in the public interest. Once again, “[a]ny person aggrieved by an order of the panel” has the right to appeal within 72 hours to the state’s appellate court. Id. Notwithstanding any orders of nondisclosure, witnesses and the person subject to criminal proceedings as a result of the investigatory grand jury proceeding may request access to their testimony from the proceeding. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54–47g(g).
In federal court, by contrast, grand jury indictment is required for all felony charges unless waived by the defendant. U.S. Const. amend. IV. Grand jury proceedings are purely a tool of the prosecution, are not done in a courtroom or with a judge present, and are closed to the public. Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(d)(1). Grand jury records are automatically off-limits by default, Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(6), although they may be ordered released if that “is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding, . . . the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy, and [the] request is structured to cover only material so needed.” Douglas Oil Co. of Cal. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 222 (1979).
Proceedings ancillary to grand jury investigations
The D.C. Circuit has held that the public does not have a First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings ancillary to grand jury investigations. In re Dow Jones & Co., Inc., 142 F.3d 496, 500 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (citing Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e), preserving the right to grand jury secrecy, and finding that ancillary proceedings must be closed to extent necessary to prevent disclosure of matters occurring before grand jury). For example, in denying the media's request for full access to the entirety of hearings and transcripts related to President Clinton's motion to show cause related to a grand jury investigation, the D.C. Circuit suggested that were the press to request redacted transcripts, the district could would act on the motion consistent with the limits of Rule 6(e) and the applicable local rule. In re Dow Jones & Co., Inc., 142 F.3d 496, 500 (D.C. Cir. 1998).
Under Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(6), the public has a limited right of access to documents filed in connection with matters before a grand jury, to the extent such documents do not disclose matters occurring before the grand jury or a court finds that continued secrecy is not necessary to prevent disclosure of matters occurring before the grand jury. In re Dow Jones & Co., Inc., 142 F.3d 496, 500 (D.C. Cir. 1998); In re Donovan, 13 Media L. Rep. 1533 (D.C. Cir. 1986) (public denied access to proceedings relating to district attorney's motion for disclosure of certain federal grand jury materials for possible use as evidence in state criminal trial of former federal official; state official's request for federal grand jury material was not “pre-trial criminal proceeding”).
In 2019, the D.C. Circuit granted the Reporters Committee’s motion to unseal, in part, records related to a contempt proceeding arising out of the Office of Special Counsel’s grand jury investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. In re Grand Jury Subpoena, No. 18-3071, Doc. No. 1784227 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 23, 2019), https://www.rcfp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2019-04-23-DC-Cir-Grand-Jury-Subpoena-Order.pdf. The court stressed “where the Rules authorize us to do so, we may – and should – release any information so long as it does not reveal the ‘identities of witnesses or jurors, the substance of testimony’ as well as actual transcripts, ‘the strategy or direction of the investigation, the deliberations or questions of jurors, and the like.’” Id. (citations omitted).
The D.C. Circuit has rejected media requests to establish a public docket of grand jury ancillary proceedings in order to facilitate greater access to grand jury information. In re Sealed Case, 199 F.3d 522 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (controlling legal authority neither holds nor suggests that public docketing of such proceedings should be mandatory, and since limited right of access to such information exists only pursuant to court's Local Criminal Rule 6.1).
Unsealing permitted where grand jury matters no longer secret
The D.C. Circuit has applied the “common sense proposition that secrecy is no longer ‘necessary’ when the contents of grand jury matters have become public.” In re North, 16 F.3d 1234, 1245 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (“There must come a time . . . when information is sufficiently widely known that it has lost its character as Rule 6(e) material. The purpose in Rule 6(e) is to preserve secrecy. Information widely known is not secret.”).
Portions of a redacted opinion, along with portions of ex parte affidavits used by the court in ruling, were ordered unsealed, but release was limited to matters that had been revealed during trial or by grand jury witnesses. In re Grand Jury Subpoena of Judith Miller, 493 F.3d 152 (D.C. Cir. 2007). During the grand jury's investigation into the Monica Lewinsky matter, the D.C. Circuit similarly held that staffers at the Office of the Independent Counsel could not have violated Rule 6(e) when they told the New York Times they believed President Clinton should be indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. In re Sealed Case, 192 F.3d 995, 1001-05 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (finding that the staffers “did not reveal any secret, for it was already common knowledge” both that President Clinton had testified and that the grand jury was investigating possible perjury and obstruction charges against him).
Courts’ inherent authority to release grand jury records
In a divided opinion in 2019, the D.C. Circuit held that federal courts lack inherent authority to disclose historic grand jury records. McKeever v. Barr, 920 F.3d 842 (D.C. Cir. 2019). The federal circuits are split on this issue. Compare id. with, e.g., Carlson v. United States, 837 F.3d 753 (7th Cir. 2016) (recognizing courts’ authority to release grand jury records).
Local D.D.C. Rules on grand jury secrecy
Local Criminal Rule 6.1 for the D.C. district court provides that all motions, applications, oppositions, other papers, and orders issued in relation to a grand jury subpoena “shall be filed under seal.” LCrR 6.1. However, papers, orders, and transcripts of hearings subject to Local Criminal Rule 6.1 may be made public by the Court on its own motion or on motion of any person upon a finding that continued secrecy is not necessary to prevent disclosure of matters occurring before the grand jury. LCrR 6.1.
In In re Grand Jury Subpoena No. 7409, Chief Judge Beryl Howell granted in part a motion by the Reporters Committee to unseal briefs, transcripts, and orders in connection with a contempt proceeding related to the Office of the Special Counsel’s grand jury investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russia. No. 18-41 (BAH), 2019 WL 2169265, at *5 (D.D.C. Apr. 1, 2019). Chief Judge Howell found that there was no First Amendment or common law right of access to the material but provided access to redacted court records under Local Criminal Rule 6.1. Id.
Contempt proceedings before a grand jury in which the alleged contemnor requests a public hearing are public. LCrR 6.1. All other hearings on matters affecting a grand jury proceeding shall be closed. LCrR 6.1.
District of Columbia
Grand jury proceedings are secret, and transcripts are rarely made available to the press or public. It is up to the court to determine if and when to release grand jury materials. Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 6(e)(6); Journalists’ Handbook to the Courts in the District of Columbia, Council for Court Excellence 33, https://www.dccourts.gov/sites/default/files/pdf-forms/JournalistsHandbook.pdf. The D.C. Circuit reads Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 6(e) as “mak[ing it] quite clear that disclosure of matters occurring before the grand jury is the exception and not the rule.” Fund of Constitutional Gov’t v. Nat’l Archives & Records Serv., 656 F.2d 856, 868 (D.C. Cir. 1981). Recently, the court held that the list of “exceptions” to grand jury secrecy provided in the rule is exhaustive—that is, a district court does not have the authority to craft new exceptions. McKeever v. Barr, 920 F.3d 842, 845-46 (D.C. Cir. 2019).
The D.C. Circuit reviewed the legal principles governing access to grand jury materials in In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller, 493 F.3d 152 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (per curiam). In that case, the D.C. Circuit held that portions of a concurring judicial opinion previously filed in the case, as well as portions of two ex parte affidavits filed in the same case discussing grand jury matters that had since been publicly revealed at trial or by the witnesses themselves, should be released in unredacted form. The court explained that “‘[g]rand jury secrecy is not unyielding’ where there is no secrecy left to protect,” id. at 154 (quoting In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller, 438 F.3d 1138, 1140 (D.C. Cir. 2006)), but cautioned that “[i]nsofar as materials concern still-secret grand jury matters, they must remain sealed.” Id.; see also In re Motions of Dow Jones & Co., Inc., 142 F.3d 496 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (explaining that “there is no First Amendment right of access to grand jury proceedings,” and finding no basis for right of access to proceedings ancillary to a grand jury investigation, but suggesting that if the judge “can allow some public access without risking disclosure of grand jury matters . . . Rule 6(e)(5) contemplates that this shall be done” and remanding questions of whether to release transcripts from the ancillary proceeding and to unseal the docket). Id. at 499, 502. But see McKeever v. Barr, 920 F.3d 842, 849 (D.C. Cir, 2019) (noting that continued secrecy can still serve a purpose even after “the passage of time and likely death of all witnesses in [a 1957] grand jury proceeding”).
In the spring of 2014, a U.S. Magistrate Judge issued an order requiring the government to file publicly an application for an order commanding Twitter not to inform anyone of the existence of grand-jury subpoenas. In re Application of the United States of Am. for Nondisclosure Order Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2705(b) for Grand Jury Subpoena #GJ2014032122836, No. MC 14-480 (JMF), 2014 WL 1775601 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2014). The Magistrate Judge reasoned that the government “has no interest in preventing what amount to legal arguments from being made public. Furthermore, there is a significant public interest in allowing the public to know that the government is affirmatively seeking to silence an entity that is not a party to any judicial proceedings.” Id. at *4.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reversed, holding that there was no First Amendment or common law right of access to the government’s application because of the strong presumption that grand jury proceedings and ancillary materials related to grand jury proceedings are secret. Matter of Application of United States of Am. for an Order of Nondisclosure Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §2705(B) for Grand Jury Subpoena # GJ2014031422765, 41 F. Supp. 3d 1, 6-8 (D.D.C. 2014).
Section 905.24, Florida Statutes, provides for the secrecy of grand juries in Florida: “[g]rand jury proceedings are secret, and a grand juror or an interpreter . . . shall not disclose the nature or substance of the deliberations or vote of the grand jury.”
The courts so jealously guard that veil of grand jury secrecy that they have closed proceedings merely ancillary to the grand jury session. In Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc. v. Doe, 460 So. 2d 406, 409 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984), the court held that the grand jury statute required closure of ancillary hearings conducted out of the grand jury’s presence, but while the grand jury was in session. Likewise, the court in Tribune v. State, 543 So. 2d 757, 759 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1989), determined the grand jury statute mandated closure of motions to repress and hearings on the motions. Although most of the interests in grand jury secrecy are protected if the grand jury session itself is closed, the courts have been receptive to arguments which urge that the cloak of secrecy be extended beyond the grand jury session itself.
Florida Statutes Section 905.17(1) (2009) proscribes the release of the notes, records, and transcripts of a grand jury. An intentional violation of those provisions constitutes indirect criminal contempt of court. § 905.17(4), Fla. Stat. (2009). (If information is leaked to the press, the prosecutor or the court might seek information from a journalist to punish the source for contempt.) See also Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(d)(1)(B)(xvi) (the clerk must automatically seal Chapter 905 grand jury records).
However, once the investigation is no longer active, the cloak of grand jury secrecy does not prevent criminal investigative records submitted to a grand jury from disclosure under the Florida Public Records Act — if the records were compiled independent of and prior to the grand jury session. Tribune v. State, 543 So. 2d 757, 759 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1989) (law enforcement files provided to grand jurors for review must be disclosed to the public after the grand jury refused to return an indictment).
Whether or not an indictment is returned, the grand jury subsequently may issue a report or presentment. That report will contain the grand jury’s findings and may make recommendations. Section 905.28(1), Florida Statutes, provides a mechanism for redacting or suppressing presentments that name unindicted individuals:
A report or presentment of the grand jury relating to an individual that is not accompanied by a true bill or indictment is confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I of the State Constitution and shall not be made public or be published until the individual concerned has been furnished a copy thereof and given 15 days to file with the circuit court a motion to repress or expunge the report or that portion which is improper and unlawful.
That provision is intended to prohibit the release of presentments until the expiration of the 15-day period (if no motion to repress is filed) or the resolution of a motion to repress. The Second District Court of Appeal in Tribune v. State (In re Grand Jury Investigation, Spring Term, 1988), 528 So. 2d 51, 53 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1988), held that motions to repress or expunge and proceedings concerning such motions are secret, even when the behavior of public officials is involved.
Traditionally in Georgia, the public has no First Amendment right of access to grand jury proceedings and records, since such proceedings have been historically and presumptively secret. Members of a grand jury in Georgia take a statutorily-prescribed oath to keep deliberations of the grand jury secret. O.C.G.A. § 15-12-67(b). A stenographer attending grand jury proceedings is required to take an oath to keep secret all things and matters learned while in attendance upon the grand jury and is incompetent to testify concerning any matter learned while in attendance upon the grand jury. O.C.G.A. § 15-12-83. As a matter of public policy, admissions and communications among grand jurors are excluded as evidence. O.C.G.A. § 15-12-73. Documents and recorded testimony received by a grand jury are not subject to public access. In re Gwinnett Cty. Grand Jury, 284 Ga. 510, 512 (2008).
However, proceedings ancillary to a grand jury may not be closed without meeting the exacting closure standards established by the Supreme Court of Georgia in R.W. Page Corp v. Lumpkin, 249 Ga. 576 (1982). Thus, in Zugar v. State, 194 Ga. 285, 289–91 (1942), in requiring that grand jury indictments be returned in open court, the Georgia Supreme Court declared that:
It is a fundamental part of our judicial system that the general public be permitted to witness court proceedings sufficiently to guarantee that there may never be practiced in this State secret or star-chamber court proceedings, the deliberations of the juries alone excepted . . . . It is not enough to know that in this State there is hardly a chance that bogus indictments for personal spite will be filed in our courts. The preservation of the honor and purity of the courts, the confidence and respect of the public in those courts, and the good name of the citizens must not be left to chance.
Id. at 291; see also State v. Brown, 293 Ga. 493 (2013) (same).
When a grand jury is engaged in its civil duty of inspecting or investigating a county office, O.C.G.A. § 15-12-71(b)(3) authorizes the grand jury to “prepare reports or issue presentments” and O.C.G.A. § 15-12-80 authorizes the grand jury “to recommend to the court the publication of the whole or any part of their general presentments and to prescribe the manner of publication” and “[w]hen the recommendation is made, the judge shall order the publication as recommended.” In re Gwinnett Cty. Grand Jury, 284 Ga. at 511.
Records of grand jury proceedings and identities of grand jurors are exempt from disclosure. I.C.A.R. 32(g)(7). This is consistent with the Idaho Supreme Court’s admonition that “[g]rand jury proceedings are intended, to the extent possible, to be secret.” In re Petition for Review of Hearing Comm. of Prof’l Conduct Bd., 140 Idaho 800, 805, 102 P.3d 1119, 1124 (Idaho 2004):
All grand jurors are required to take an oath that includes the following provision:
You will keep your own counsel, and that of your fellows, and of the government, and will not, except when required in the due course of judicial proceedings, disclose the testimony of any witness examined before you, nor anything which you or any other grand juror may have said nor the manner in which you or any other grand juror may have voted in any matter before you.
I.C. §§ 19–1011 through 1012. A grand juror who violates that oath commits a misdemeanor. I.C. § 18–4403. In addition, Idaho Code § 19–1111 limits the persons who can be present during grand jury sessions. Finally, Idaho Criminal Rule 6.3(b) provides that upon the conclusion of each matter presented to the grand jury, the clerk is to seal the record of the proceedings and that the record is not to be examined by anyone or transcribed except upon order of the district judge.
Consistent with the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, Idaho Criminal Rule 6.3(c) provides, “The district judge may place conditions upon the use, dissemination or publication of the proceedings of the grand jury, and any violation of any such condition by a party granted access to the record shall constitute contempt of the order of the district judge.” The rule refers to a violation of the conditions by “a party granted access to the record.” The reference to “a party granted access” is consistent with the requirement that each person seeking access must obtain court permission.
In Illinois, Section 112-6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure governs the secrecy of grand jury proceedings. No person other than the State’s attorney and his reporter may attend grand jury proceedings unless authorized by the court or by law. 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/112-6(a) (West 2021). The purposes behind the secrecy requirement include preventing the escape of the accused before an indictment, ensuring open deliberations by the grand jury, guarding against the use of perjured testimony at trial, encouraging truthful disclosures, and protecting the innocent and unindicted from unnecessary disclosure. People v. Toolen, 116 Ill. App. 3d 632, 646-47, 451 N.E.2d 1364, 1375, 72 Ill. Dec. 41, 52 (Ill. App. Ct. 5th Dist. 1983); In re Appointment of Special Prosecutor, 2019 IL 122949, ¶ 32, 129 N.E.3d 1181, 1189; see also Walker v. Bruscato, 2019 IL App (2d) 170775, ¶ 62, 134 N.E.3d 971, 986 (affirming denial of FOIA request for a copy of individual deliberations and votes of grand jurors).
The presence of an unauthorized person in grand jury proceedings is grounds to dismiss an indictment, but the defendant must show that the presence prejudiced the grand jury. People v. Fassler, 153 Ill. 2d 49, 55, 605 N.E.2d 576, 579, 178 Ill. Dec. 782, 785 (1992). The defendant could show he was prejudiced by “a showing that the purposes of the secrecy requirement were not met, or that, in fact, the indictment was obtained as the result of undue influence or coercion.” Id. at 56, 605 N.E.2d at 579, 178 Ill. Dec. at 785 (finding no evidence that the unauthorized presence of the victim’s mother jeopardized the secrecy of the proceeding or influenced the victim’s testimony or the grand jury’s decision).
Section 112-6 of the Code of Criminal Procedure also governs the disclosure of grand jury records in Illinois. The statute provides:
(b) Matters other than the deliberations and vote of any grand juror shall not be disclosed by the State's Attorney, except as otherwise provided for in subsection (c). The court may direct that a Bill of Indictment be kept secret until the defendant is in custody or has given bail and in either event the clerk shall seal the Bill of Indictment and no person shall disclose the finding of the Bill of Indictment except when necessary for the issuance and execution of a warrant.
725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/112-6(b) (West 2021). Courts have confirmed that Section 112-6 prevents disclosure of sealed grand jury records via open records requests. In re Appointment of Special Prosecutor, 2019 IL 122949, ¶ 35, 129 N.E.3d 1181, 1190 (denying access to records generated in special prosecutor’s grand jury investigation). The Illinois Supreme Court observed that Section 112-6 is modeled after Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), and, therefore, courts may look to federal cases for guidance. Id.
“However, the veil of secrecy surrounding grand jury proceedings is not absolute.” In re Extended March 1975 Grand Jury No. 655, 84 Ill. App. 3d 847, 851, 405 N.E.2d 1176, 1179, 40 Ill. Dec. 84, 87 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. 1980). Disclosure may be made to the State’s attorney or other government officials “for use in the performance of such State’s attorney’s duty.” 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/112-6(c)(1)(a) (West 2021).
The State’s attorney’s duties, for purposes of this section, do not include civil or administrative proceedings. Bd. of Educ. v. Verisario, 143 Ill. App. 3d 1000, 1006, 493 N.E.2d 355, 358, 97 Ill. Dec. 692, 695 (Ill. App. Ct. 2nd Dist. 1986). The court in Verisario adopted its reasoning from the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the identical federal provision. Id. (citing United States v. Sells Engineering, Inc., 463 U.S. 418, 431-35 (1983)). In Sells, the Court reasoned that “disclosure to non-prosecutors for civil use would: 1) increase the risk of inadvertent or illegal release of grand jury materials to others; 2) further tempt prosecutors to manipulate the grand jury to improperly elicit evidence for use in civil cases and make detection of such abuses more difficult; and 3) threaten to subvert discovery limitations applied outside the grand jury context.” Id. at 1005-06, 358 (quoting Sells, 463 U.S. at 431-35) (emphasis added). If disclosure is made to other officials under this section, the State’s attorney must provide the court with the names of those individuals. Id. at 112-6(c)(2).
Also, the court may direct disclosure “preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding . . . in the interests of justice or when a law so directs.” 725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/ 112-6(c)(3) (West 2021). In Verisario, the court determined that an administrative hearing subject to judicial review is in connection with a judicial proceeding. 143 Ill. App. 3d at 1009, 493 N.E.2d at 360, 97 Ill. Dec. at 697. The court also set out a three-pronged test for determining whether disclosure is required in the interests of justice: Parties seeking disclosure must show (1) that the material is necessary to avoid injustice in another judicial proceeding, (2) that the need for disclosure outweighs the need for secrecy, and (3) that the request is tailored to cover only the material necessary. Id. In order to satisfy the first prong, the party must show that the material is relevant and useful, that the case would be prejudiced without it, AND that the material could not be obtained via other channels. Id. at 1010, 493 N.E.2d at 361, 97 Ill. Dec. at 698. In proving that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for secrecy, the burden will be lowered as the justifications for secrecy become less pertinent. For example, the protection of the unindicted will not apply where the grand jury indicted the defendant. The court also noted that the first three justifications (preventing escape, open deliberation, and preventing witness tampering and perjury) no longer apply after the grand jury concludes its investigation. Cf. Grand Jury No. 655, 84 Ill. App. 3d at 853-54, 405 N.E.2d at 1181, 40 Ill. Dec. at 89 (suggesting that whether the grand jury indicted anyone was more relevant to the justifications for secrecy). Finally, the party seeking disclosure cannot go on “a fishing expedition by seeking wholesale disclosure of all grand jury materials.” Verisario, 143 Ill. App. 3d at 1011, 493 N.E.2d at 361-62, 97 Ill. Dec. at 698-99; accord Grand Jury No. 655, 84 Ill. App. 3d at 854, 405 N.E.2d at 1181, 40 Ill. Dec. at 89; see also Brettman v. Breaker Press Co., 2020 IL App (2d) 190817-U, ¶ 33 (nonprecedential opinion) (opining that disclosure of 1975 grand jury testimony would be in the interest of justice because it could reveal whether defendants’ statements about plaintiff were libelous); People v. Van Dyke, 2020 IL App (1st) 191384, ¶ 79 (nonprecedential opinion), appeal denied, 167 N.E.3d 650 (Ill. 2021) (rejecting argument that grand jury statements used at trial become public).
Indiana Code 35-34-2-4(i) provides for the secrecy of grand jury proceedings:
“Grand jury proceedings shall be secret, and no person present during a grand jury proceeding may, except in the lawful discharge of his duties or upon written order of the court impaneling the grand jury or the court trying the case on indictment presented by the grand jury, disclose:
(1) the nature or substance of any grand jury testimony; or
(2) any decision, result, or other matter attending the grand jury proceeding.
However, any court may require any person present during a proceeding to disclose the testimony of a witness as direct evidence in a prosecution for perjury.”
Although grand jury proceedings “shall be secret,” the presence of an unauthorized person in the grand jury room is not per se grounds for dismissing the indictment. State v. Hardy, 406 N.E.2d 313, 316 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980). Rather, the defendant must show prejudice to his or her substantial rights. Id. Additionally, the Indiana Court of Appeals has held that grand jury proceedings under Indiana Code Section 35-34-2-4(i) include grand jury subpoenas. Pigman v. Evansville Press, 537 N.E.2d 547, 552 (Ind. Ct. App. 1989) (holding that grand jury subpoenas are excepted from public disclosure).
Indiana Code 35-34-2-10(b) provides for the secrecy of grand jury witness testimony:
“(b) The transcript of testimony of a witness before a grand jury may be produced only:
(1) for the official use of the prosecuting attorney; or
(2) upon order of:
(A) the court which impaneled the grand jury;
(B) the court trying a case upon an indictment of the grand jury; or
(C) a court trying a prosecution for perjury;
but only after a showing of particularized need for the transcript.”
However, grand jury transcripts may be disclosed if there is a showing of a “particularized need.” See Hinojosa v. State, 781 N.E.2d 677, 680 (Ind. 2003) (footnote and citations omitted) (“[W]e note that the general rule regarding grand jury transcripts is that they be kept secret. Ind. Code § 35-34-2-4(i) (1998). Indiana does not even recognize an absolute right of the accused to the pre-trial examination of grand jury minutes. In fact, it is a criminal offense to ‘knowingly and intentionally’ disclose information acquired in a grand jury proceeding unless compelled by law. Ind. Code § 35-34-2-10(a) (1998). However, the Legislature has created an exception to the general rule of secrecy by granting trial judges the discretion to release evidence in certain circumstances where a ‘particularized need’ can be shown. See Ind. Code § 35-34-2-10(b) (1998).”
In Iowa, grand jury proceedings are to be kept secret. See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.3. In addition, the fact that an indictment has been found cannot be disclosed by any member of the grand jury, and its clerks, bailiffs and court attendants “except when necessary for the issuance and execution of a warrant or summons.” Id. In Iowa, the duty of nondisclosure of the fact that an indictment has been found continues only until the indicted person has been arrested. Id.
Grand jury proceedings are to be kept secret in Iowa. See id. However, the Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure governing grand jury secrecy does not expressly mention witnesses and the United States Supreme Court held in Butterworth v. Smith, 494 U.S. 624, 110 S. Ct. 1376, 108 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1990), that a court did not possess the authority to impose a gag order on grand jury witnesses, at least after the expiration of the grand jury’s term. See B. John Burns, 4A Iowa Practice § 5:3 Criminal Procedure (2009 ed.). Minutes of testimony, used to describe the evidence upon which a county attorney instigates criminal charges by information rather than by indictment, are accorded similar treatment by the rules of criminal procedure.
Kansas law specifies who may be present during a grand jury proceeding. According to K.S.A. 22-3010, authorized persons are the “[p]rosecuting attorneys, special counsel employed by the grand jury, the witness under examination and his counsel, [and] interpreters when needed.” In addition, an official reporter may be present “for the purpose of taking the evidence.” The law stipulates that “no person other than the jurors may be present while the grand jury is deliberating or voting.” K.S.A. 22-3010.
Apart from the grand jury, the Kansas attorney general’s office and county and district attorneys have authority to conduct inquisitions to investigate “any alleged violation of the laws.” K.S.A. 22-3101(1) (2007); State v. Cathey, 741 P.2d 738, 744 (Kan. 1987). The purpose of an inquisition may be either to determine probable cause for a criminal prosecution or to gain sworn testimony following an indictment. According to the Kansas Supreme Court, an inquisition is like a “one-person grand jury” and may be closed. Cathey, 741 P.2d at 744.
A Kansas statute limits the conditions under which records of grand jury proceedings may be disclosed, providing that:
[A] juror, attorney, interpreter, reporter or any typist who transcribes recorded testimony may disclose matters occurring before the grand jury only when so directed by the court preliminarily to or in connection with a judicial proceeding or when permitted by the court at the request of the defendant upon a showing that grounds may exist for a motion to dismiss the indictment because of matters occurring before the grand jury. … The court may direct that an indictment shall be kept secret until the defendant is in custody or has given bail, and in that event the clerk shall seal the indictment and no person shall disclose the finding of the indictment except when necessary for the issuance and execution of a warrant or summons.
Article 434 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure states: “Members of the grand jury, all other persons present at a grand jury meeting, and all persons having confidential access to information concerning grand jury proceedings, shall keep secret the testimony of witnesses and all other matters occurring at, or directly connected with, a meeting of the grand jury.”
Grand jury proceedings in Maine are closed to the public. M. R. Crim. P. 6(e) (general rule of grand jury secrecy). Grand jury records in Maine are confidential absent an order of the Court. M. R. Crim. P. 6(e). A transcript of grand jury proceedings may be made available upon motion of the defendant or the attorney for the state upon a “showing of particularized need” and “upon such terms as are just.” M. R. Crim. P. 6(g).
Grand jury records and other records of ongoing criminal investigations are also presumptively sealed. Md. Rule 16-907(g)(6); see also Maryland Rule 4-642(a) (“Files and records of the court pertaining to [grand jury investigations] shall be sealed and shall be open to inspection only by order of the court.”). Disclosure of the “content” of a grand jury proceeding is a misdemeanor, punishable by a “fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or both.” Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 8-507. Indeed, “[s]ecrecy is the lifeblood of the grand jury.” In re Criminal Investigation No. 437 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, 557 A.2d 235, 240 (1989).
Nevertheless, Maryland Rule 4-642(d) authorizes the filing of a motion to disclose grand jury information, placing a heavy burden on the party seeking disclosure. In order to overcome the presumption of secrecy, parties “seeking a court order for disclosure under Md. Rule 4-642 must show that: (1) the material they seek is needed to avoid a possible injustice; and (2) the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy; and (3) their request is structured to cover only material so needed.” In re Criminal Investigation No. 437 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, 557 A.2d at 244.
Grand jury secrecy is also protected by the Maryland Public Information Act (“PIA”). Md. Gen. Provis. § 4-301 (prohibiting disclosure of grand jury materials pursuant to the Public Information Act). In Office of the State Prosecutor v. Judicial Watch, Inc., 737 A.2d 592 (Md. 1999), the Court of Appeals held that the defendant could not use the PIA to end-run Rule 4-642, and found that the PIA did not override the historic secrecy of the grand jury. Id. at 600. The Court suggested that a third party, such as a press organization, might never be able to make the required showing. Id. (noting that the defendant was “an organization that is not a person in interest under the PIA, that is unrelated to any party in the criminal investigation, and that is not a governmental or law enforcement entity. Therefore, none of the showings required for disclosure of grand jury files and records have been made or even attempted to be made, nor, under the circumstances, could they have been.”).
Proceedings. Grand jury proceedings are secret in Massachusetts. WBZ-TV4 v. Dist. Atty., 408 Mass. 595, 599 (citing Commonwealth v. Harris, 231 Mass. 584, 586 (1919); Commonwealth v. Mead, 12 Gray 167, 170 (Mass. 1858)).
Records. While “not every document placed before a grand jury is automatically exempt from disclosure,” any information that is not otherwise public that is presented to the grand jury is presumed to be “matters occurring before the grand jury” and therefore impounded. Id. at 601. The WBZ-TV4 case implies that the grand jury secrecy rule may be overcome, but only with a showing of a compelling, constitutionally based interest. Id. at 599.
The Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure indicate that “the matters occurring before the grand jury” may not be disclosed to anyone other than the prosecuting attorney and, in certain circumstances, the defendant or the defense counsel. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 18.07. The rules specify that only the following individuals are allowed during grand jury proceedings: attorneys for the state, witnesses under examination, qualified interpreters as needed to assist the witnesses or jurors, and a reporter or operator of a recording instrument. Minn. R. Crim. P. 18.03. The court may order that a peace officer be present when a particular witness testifies in front of the grand jury. Id. In some circumstance, the attorney for the witness may also be present in order to advise and consult with the witness while the witness is testifying. Id. Further, if a witness is under the age of eighteen, “a parent, guardian or other supportive person” may be present when the underage witness is testifying. Id.
In Minnesota, the records of grand jury proceedings are not open to the public. See Boitnott v. State, 640 N.W.2d 626, 630 (Minn. 2002). Under the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, a verbatim record must be made of the evidence that was taken before the grand jury and all of the events and statements that occurred during grand jury proceedings, with the exception of the deliberations and voting of the grand jury. Minn. R. Crim. P.18.04, subd. 1. The record may not include the names of any grand juror. Id. Records are disclosed only to the court and the prosecuting attorney. Boitnott, 640 N.W.2d at 630 (citing then Minn. R. Crim. P. 18.05, subd. 1, now Minn. R. Crim. P. 18.04, subd. 1). In addition, the court may order that the grand jury records be disclosed to the defendant or the defense counsel if the defendant makes a motion “for good cause shown” or if the defendant shows that grounds may exist to dismiss the indictment because of the matters occurring before the grand jury. Id. The burden is on the defendant to show that a good cause exists for the disclosure of grand jury information. Id. A showing of good cause requires a showing of a “particularized need.” Id. A “particularized need” exists if “(a) the material sought is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding, (b) the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy, and (c) the request is structured to cover only the material so needed.” Id. (citing Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 222 (1979)).
Transcripts of grand jury proceedings are not available to the public. See Minn. R. Crim. P. 18.04, subd. 2. The court may, however, order that parts of the grand jury transcript be disclosed to the defense counsel before trial. Id.
Grand jury proceedings in Mississippi are confidential, and grand jurors are prohibited from disclosing the nature or substance of their deliberations. “The only persons who may be present in the state grand jury room when a state grand jury is in session, except for deliberations and voting, are the state grand jurors, the Attorney General or his designees, an interpreter if necessary and the witness testifying.” Miss. Code Ann. § 13-7-29.
In Mississippi, “[r]ecords, orders and subpoenas related to state grand jury proceedings shall be kept under seal to the extent and for the time that is necessary to prevent disclosure of matters occurring before a state grand jury.” Miss. Code. Ann. § 13-7-39.
Names of grand jurors may be disclosed only upon order of a judge. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-1635(1) (Reissue 2016). When a grand jury is empaneled to investigate the death of a person being apprehended or in law enforcement custody, a transcript of testimony before the grand jury, including exhibits, is filed with the empaneling court and is available for public inspection. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1407.01(2)(b) (Reissue 2016). When a grand jury is empaneled for some other reason, a transcript is prepared and filed with the court, but is sealed and not available for public inspection. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1407.01(2)(a) (Reissue 2016). When a grand jury is empaneled to investigate the death of a person being apprehended or in law enforcement custody, if it declines to indict and returns a “no true bill,” the grand jury prepares a report explaining its findings and any recommendations it determines to be appropriate; such report is filed with the empaneling court and is available for public inspection. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-1406(2)(g) (Reissue 2016). No such report is prepared if the grand jury is empaneled for some other reason. A judge may only release grand jury testimony to the witness giving the testimony, and it was error to rely on federal law in releasing grand jury testimony to a prosecutor. In re Grand Jury of Lancaster County, 269 Neb. 436, 693 N.W.2d 295 (2005). Grand jurors swear an oath to keep their deliberations secret unless called upon to make disclosures in court. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 29-1404 and 1405 (Reissue 2016).
Nevada statutes restrict who may be present when a grand jury is in session.
NRS § 172.235—Who may be present when grand jury is in session:
1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, the following persons may be present while the grand jury is in session:
(a) The district attorney;
(b) A witness who is testifying;
(c) An attorney who is accompanying a witness pursuant to NRS 172.239;
(d) Any interpreter who is needed;
(e) The certified court reporter who is taking stenographic notes of the proceeding;
(f) Any person who is engaged by the grand jury pursuant to NRS 172.205; and
(g) Any other person requested by the grand jury to be present.
2. No person other than the jurors may be present while the grand jury is deliberating or voting.
Grand jury proceedings are deemed secret and only limited disclosures are permitted under NRS § 172.245:
1. The disclosure of:
(a) Evidence presented to the grand jury;
(b) Information obtained by the grand jury;
(c) The results of an investigation made by the grand jury; and
(d) An event occurring or a statement made in the presence of the grand jury other than its deliberations and the vote of a juror, may be made to the district attorney for use in the performance of the district attorney’s duties.
2. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, the Attorney General or a member of the Attorney General’s staff, a grand juror, district attorney or member of the district attorney’s staff, peace officer, clerk, stenographer, interpreter, witness or other person invited or allowed to attend the proceedings of a grand jury shall not disclose:
(a) Evidence presented to the grand jury;
(b) An event occurring or a statement made in the presence of the grand jury;
(c) Information obtained by the grand jury; or
(d) The results of an investigation made by the grand jury.
3. A person may disclose his or her knowledge concerning the proceedings of a grand jury:
(a) When so directed by the court preliminary to or in connection with a judicial proceeding;
(b) When permitted by the court at the request of the defendant upon a showing that grounds may exist for a motion to dismiss the presentment or indictment because of matters occurring before the grand jury;
(c) If the person was a witness before the grand jury and is disclosing his or her knowledge of the proceedings to the person’s own attorney; or
(d) As provided in NRS 172.225.
Under NRS § 172.225(6), grand jury transcripts become public as follows:
6. Upon the filing of such a transcript with the county clerk, the transcript and any related physical evidence exhibited to the grand jury become a matter of public record unless the court:
(a) Orders that the presentment or indictment remain secret until the defendant is in custody or has been given bail; or
(b) Upon motion, orders the transcript and evidence to remain secret until further order of the court.
Grand jury proceedings and records are confidential. See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 600:3 (Oath taken by grand jurors).
In New Mexico, all deliberations of the grand jury are to be conducted in a private room outside the hearing or presence of any person other than grand jury members. Rule 5-114 NMRA. To this end, the presence of an unauthorized person before a grand jury requires dismissal of the indictment without any requisite showing of prejudice, so as to protect the secrecy of the proceedings and to prevent the possibility of undue influence on witnesses and jurors. Davis v. Traub, 1977-NMSC-049, ¶ 4, 90 N.M. 498, 500, 565 P.2d 1015, 1017. New Mexico courts “presume prejudice in such cases because the structural protections of the grand jury statutes preserve the integrity of the grand jury system and because, as a practical matter, evaluating actual prejudice would require a speculative inquiry and impose a difficult burden on the target and the courts.” Herrera v. Sanchez, 2014-NMSC-018, ¶ 17, 328 P.3d 1176, 1182.
Proceedings of the grand jury, other than its deliberations, are to be recorded and made available to indicted defendants. NMSA 1978, § 31-6-8; State v. Ulibarri, 1999-NMCA-142, ¶ 11, 128 N.M. 546, 550, 994 P.2d 1164, 1168, aff'd, 2000-NMSC-007, ¶ 11, 128 N.M. 686, 997 P.2d 818. Further, “[c]opies of documentary evidence or a summary thereof if directed by the district court exhibited to the grand jury shall be made a part of the record.” NMSA 1978, § 31-6-8. In cases where an indictment is not returned, however, “the notes or transcriptions shall be destroyed unless ordered by the district judge to be preserved for good cause shown, including but not limited to the prosecution of a witness for perjury.” Id.
Otherwise, and pursuant to the New Mexico Local Rules of the First Judicial District Court, grand jury records are confidential, and shall not be transcribed, made public or released by the clerk to any person, except upon written order of the court where law or the interests of justice so require. Local Rule (“LR”) 1-303(A). The audio tapes of the court reporter attending any grand jury are deposited with the clerk of the court within fifteen days after attendance. LR1-303(C). These notes or tapes remain confidential and in the custody of the clerk and are subject to rules relating to records in the custody of the clerk. Id. The Supreme Court of New Mexico has identified the public policy interests in maintaining confidentiality around the proceedings:
“(1) That the grand jurors themselves be secure in freedom from apprehension that their opinions and votes will not be subsequently disclosed; (2) that complainants and witnesses will be encouraged to appear before the grand jury and speak freely without fear that their testimony will be made public, subjecting them to possible discomfort or retaliation; (3) that those persons who are indicted will be prevented from escaping prior to arrest or from tampering with witnesses against them; and (4) to prevent disclosure of derogatory information against persons who have not been indicted.”
State v. Morgan, 1960-NMSC-087, ¶ 4, 67 N.M. 287, 289, 354 P.2d 1002, 1004.
Courts have held that “a presumption of confidentiality attaches to the record of Grand Jury proceedings.” People v. Fetcho, 91 N.Y.2d 765, 769, 676 N.Y.S.2d 106, 698 N.E.2d 935 (1998). The court must consider “the competing interests involved, the public interest in disclosure against that in secrecy.” People v. Di Napoli, 27 N.Y.2d 229, 234, 316 N.Y.S.2d 622, 265 N.E.2d 449, 451 (1970).
There are, however, exceptions where the policy reasons behind the confidentiality—to protect an ongoing investigation, a pending trial, or the identity of the accused, id.—are at their weakest. For example, courts have unsealed grand jury minutes where there are accusations that “go to the heart of the grand jury process and county government and disclosure to the public in order to maintain the integrity of the grand jury process and county government creates a compelling interest for disclosure.” People v. Cipolla, 184 Misc. 2d 880, 882, 711 N.Y.S.2d 303, 305 (Rensselaer Cty. Ct. 2000); see also Aiani v. Donovan, 98 A.D.3d 972, 950 N.Y.S.2d 745, 748 (2d Dep’t 2012) (finding that a “discretionary balancing of the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in secrecy of the grand jury favor[ed] disclosure” where the petitioner needed the information to recover in his civil claims).
But petitions that fail to identify a compelling and particularized need for access have been denied. See, e.g., Williams v. City of Rochester, 151 A.D.3d 1698, 1698, 55 N.Y.S.3d 843, 844 (4th Dep’t); In re NYP Holdings, Inc., 196 Misc. 2d 708, 766 N.Y.S.2d 477 (Sup. Ct. Kings Cty. 2003); In re Carey, 68 A.D.2d 220, 416 N.Y.S.2d 904 (4th Dep’t 1979); Matter of Dist. Attorney of Suffolk Cty., 86 A.D.2d 294, 300, 449 N.Y.S.2d 1004, 1008 (2d Dep’t 1982) (finding that disclosure of grand jury materials was not warranted).
The empanelment of a grand jury in North Dakota is a rare and closed occurrence. If a grand jury is summoned, the deliberations and votes of the grand jurors are required to be kept secret under N.D.C.C. § 29-10.1-30. Testimony given before the grand jury may be disclosed by a grand juror only when required by a court for the purpose of impeaching a witness or to support a charge of perjury.
“Deliberations of the grand jury and the vote of any grand juror shall not be disclosed.” Ohio Crim. R. 6(E). See State ex rel. Beacon Journal Publ’g Co. v. Waters, 617 N.E.2d 1110 (Ohio 1993) (holding that this protection extends to grand jury subpoenas and the witness book). However, the release of grand jury materials is authorized in rare circumstances. In re Grand Jury Investigation, 580 N.E.2d 868, 875 (Ohio C.P. 1991) (holding that the only other exceptions to grand jury secrecy are, “where a ‘particularized need’ for disclosure has been established in a pending judicial proceeding, criminal or civil, by a party thereto, and where, after the term of the grand jury has ended, a witness reveals what he himself disclosed to the grand jury.”). Evidentiary documents that would otherwise be public records remain public records, even if they have been submitted to the grand jury. See State ex rel. Dispatch Printing Co. v. Morrow Cty. Prosecutor’s Office, 824 N.E.2d 64, 66 (Ohio 2005) (citing State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Hamilton Cty., 662 N.E.2d 334, 338 (Ohio 1996)).
Ohio’s rules of criminal procedure prohibit any obligation of secrecy—such as an oath—on grand jury witnesses. See Beacon Journal Publ’g Co. v. Unger, 532 F. Supp. 55 (N.D. Ohio 1982).
In In re Proceedings of Multicounty Grand Jury, 1993 OK CR 12, 847 P.2d 812, the court commented that “Oklahoma law concerning the secrecy of grand jury proceedings is not well developed,” but that grand jury proceedings were historically “conducted in, and surrounded by, secrecy.” The court referred to criminal procedure statutes that implied a “general tenor of secrecy.” The court specifically held that the public and media could be excluded from proceedings regarding grand jury witness immunity. In Oklahoma Publishing Co. v. District Court of Oklahoma County, 1976 OK 145, 555 P.2d 1286, rev’d on other grounds, 430 U.S. 308 (1977), the court said that the media did not enjoy a constitutional right of access to proceedings and places where the public was traditionally excluded, mentioning specifically grand jury proceedings, among others.
No Oregon court has specifically addressed access to grand jury proceedings. However, the Oregon Constitution provides a presumption of access unless the proceeding is not an adjudication, or where the proceeding was traditionally closed prior to the adoption of the Oregon Constitution. See Oregonian Publ’g Co. v. O’Leary, 303 Or. 297, 303, 736 P.2d 173, 177 (1987). Because grand jury proceedings were not traditionally open to the public, it is likely that Oregon courts would deny access.
Records of grand jury indictments may be designated as confidential by the district attorney and, when designated, will remain so until the arrest of the defendant. ORS 132.410.
Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public. The Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure provide who may be present at a grand jury proceeding:
(A) The attorney for the Commonwealth, the alternate grand jurors, the witness under examination, and a stenographer may be present while the investigating grand jury is in session. Counsel for the witness under examination may be present as provided by law.
(B) The supervising judge, upon the request of the attorney for the Commonwealth or the grand jury, may order that an interpreter, security officers, and such other persons as the judge may determine are necessary to the presentation of the evidence may be present while the investigating grand jury is in session.
(C) All persons who are to be present while the grand jury is in session shall be identified in the record, shall be sworn to secrecy as provided in these rules, and shall not disclose any information pertaining to the grand jury except as provided by law.
Pa. R. Crim. P. 231.
Rule 229 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that “[e]xcept as otherwise set forth in these rules, the court shall control the original and all copies of the [grand jury] transcript and shall maintain their secrecy.” (emphasis added). Rule 230 provides that the transcripts may be released to the attorney for the Commonwealth, the criminal defendant, or another investigative agency under certain conditions.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that “there is no historical common law right of access to grand jury proceedings” or “documents and other materials generated from or related to grand jury proceedings.” In re 2014 Allegheny Cty. Investigating Grand Jury, 223 A.3d 214, 230 (Pa. 2019).
An investigating grand jury report is a public record to which a statutory right of access applies, under certain circumstances. See, e.g., In re Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury I, 190 A.3d 560, 569 (Pa. 2018) (citing 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4552). The judge presiding over the grand jury is required to file the “report as a public record with the court of common pleas established for or embracing the county or counties which are the subject of such report,” but “only if the report is based upon facts received in the course of an investigation authorized by [the grand jury statute] and is supported by the preponderance of the evidence.” 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4552(b). If the judge determines either that the report is not supported by a preponderance of the evidence or that its disclosure would “prejudice fair consideration of a pending criminal matter,” then the report should be sealed. Id. § 4552(b)-(c). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that, in light of the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of a person’s right to reputation, any person has a right to due process before being accused of misconduct in a publicly released grand jury report. See, e.g., In re Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury I, 190 A.3d at 573-76. The grand jury statute provides that“[i]f the supervising judge finds that the report is critical of an individual not indicted for a criminal offense, the supervising judge may in his sole discretion allow the named individual to submit a response to the allegations contained in the report. The supervising judge may then in his discretion allow the response to be attached to the report as part of the report before the report is made part of the public record . . . .” 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4552(e).
In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered petitions filed by several priests who sought to have their names redacted from a grand jury report detailing allegations of child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. In re Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury I, 190 A.3d at 573-76. The priests argued that disclosure of their names would deprive them of their right to reputation without adequate due process. Id. at 572. The Supreme Court issued two opinions in which it ultimately agreed with the priests and ordered that their names be permanently redacted from the report. See id.; In re Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury II, 197 A.3d 712 (Pa. 2018).
In its first opinion, the Supreme Court made clear that redaction of an accuser’s name from a grand jury report will not always be required. See Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury I, 190 A.3d at 564. Instead, it distinguished between a grand jury report “that is designed to address general welfare concerns, but may have a collateral impact on reputational rights,” and a report by a grand jury like the one at issue, which had “a primary objective . . . to publicly censure the conduct of specific individuals.” Id. at 573-74. Where the latter is involved, “increased procedural protections are implicated in the interest of fundamental fairness.” Id. at 574. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the Grand Jury Act allowed the priests to submit rebuttal statements for inclusion in the report, see 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4552(e), but decided that such a remedy was “not sufficiently effective” in this instance, because the report itself was 900 pages, and it impugned individual priests as “predator[s] or facilitator[s] alongside more than 300 others amidst the hierarchy of a religious institution.” Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury I, 190 A.3d at 574. Likewise, the Court held that the Act’s provision for “preponderance-of-the-evidence review by a supervising judge” was “not a sufficient safeguard to obviate the necessity to provide [the priests] an opportunity to respond to the grand jury’s criticism in a meaningful way.” Id. at 575. Given those unique circumstances, the Supreme Court ordered additional argument on the availability of alternative measures, short of permanent redaction, that would comply with due process. Id. at 575-76.
After hearing additional argument, the Supreme Court issued a second opinion holding there were no such available alternative measures under the case’s unique circumstances, most notably that the term of the grand jury that issued the report had expired. See In re Fortieth Statewide Investigating Grand Jury II, 197 A.3d at 721-24. The Supreme Court noted that the Grand Jury Act did not permit the “extraordinary measure” of reconvening the grand jury to hear additional evidence. Id. at 721. It further concluded that the Grand Jury Act did not permit the supervising judge to hear additional evidence, and that even if it did, “such a process would be fraught with problems rooted in the nature and character of the divergent type of evidence the supervising judge would be forced to evaluate.” Id. at 722. Consequently, pursuant to its “inherent judicial authority” to address “deprivation of an individual’s due process rights,” the Supreme Court ordered that the priests’ names be permanently redacted. Id. at 723-24. The Supreme Court’s decision did not establish a per se rule that will always require redaction, so it is unclear what impact, if any, the decision will have on future grand jury reports.
In 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a third opinion in the same case, where it considered “whether either the common law or the First Amendment confers a qualified right of access to the press and the public to inspect certain search warrant materials issued in connection with a grand jury investigation.” In re 2014 Allegheny Cty. Investigating Grand Jury, 223 A.3d 214, 217-18 (Pa. 2018). The court held that neither a common law nor First Amendment right of access attaches to search warrant materials – an application and authorization for a search warrant, and an affidavit of probable cause – issued in connection with an ongoing grand jury investigation. Id. at 218, 232, 234-35. A thorough discussion of this decision in the sections related to criminal pretrial proceedings and search warrants. See Sections III.B, IV.D.
Superior Court Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) governs the secrecy of grand jury procedures. It generally requires proceedings and testimony before grand juries to remain secret and lists a number of exceptions to that secrecy. See Super. Ct. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(3). These exceptions include disclosures ordered by a court “preliminarily to or in connection with a judicial proceeding,” to the defendant for purposes of seeking dismissal of an indictment, when a disclosure of grand jury materials is made by a state attorney to a second grand jury, and to a federal official if a state attorney shows that the materials may disclose a violation of federal law. See id. at Rule 6(e)(3)(C).
The Rhode Island Supreme Court has recently determined that the exceptions in Rule 6(e) are exclusive and that the Superior Court does not possess the inherent authority to permit disclosure of grand jury materials beyond the reasons specified under the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. In Re 38 Studios Grand Jury, 225 A. 3d 224, 2390240 (R.I. 2020).
Both state and county grand jury proceedings are secret and grand jurors are prohibited from revealing the nature or substance of a grand jury proceeding. S.C. Code Ann. § 14-7-1720.
“[M]atters occurring before a grand jury” are closed. S.D. Codified Laws § 23A-5-16; S.D. Codified Laws § 15-15A-7(3)(l). However, that would not seemingly pertain to juror information, which should remain open under SD Codified Law 16-13-31.1.
“[G]eneral law mandates that grand jury proceedings remain secret.” State v. Carruthers, 35 S.W.3d 516, 533 (Tenn. 2000) (citations omitted). “Every member of the grand jury shall keep secret the proceedings of that body and the testimony given before it, except as provided in Rule 6(k)(2).” Tenn. R. Crim. P. 6(k). “The court may require a grand juror to reveal the testimony of a grand jury witness: (A) to ascertain whether the grand jury testimony is consistent with that given by the witness before the court; or (B) to disclose the grand jury testimony of any witness charged with perjury.” Tenn. R. Crim. P. 6(k)(2); see also Tenn. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(3) (requiring the state to provide as discovery to the defendant any “recorded testimony of the defendant before a grand jury which relates to the offense charged”). But “[t]he power of a court to remove the oath of secrecy should not be exercised except in cases where it is clearly shown necessary to the attainment of justice.” In re Rich, 413 S.W.2d 374, 378 (Tenn. 1967) (discussing under identical, prior statutory provision).
Tennessee statutes include similar provisions. For example, “[a] grand juror … shall not disclose matters occurring before the grand jury except in accordance with [specified] sections.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-12-209(a)(3) (investigative grand juries). Disclosure is, among other things, “[p]ermitted by a court upon motion of the defendant showing grounds exist for amotion to dismiss the indictment because of matters occurring before the grand jury.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-12-210(3).
The public does not have a right of access to grand jury proceedings. See San Antonio Express-News v. Roman, 861 S.W.2d 265, 267 n.1 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1993, orig. proceeding); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 20.011.
Grand jury proceedings, which include testimony before the grand jury and deliberations, are secret, and the participants are prohibited from disclosing any part of the proceedings. See Barnhart v. State, No. 13-08-00511-CR, 2010 WL 3420823, at *11 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi–Edinburg Aug. 31, 2010, pet. ref’d) (citing In re Reed, 227 S.W.3d 273, 275 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2007, no pet.)); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 20.02, 20.16. However, a court may permit disclosure when, in the court’s judgment, disclosure is “material to the administration of justice.” Stern v. State ex rel. Ansel, 869 S.W.2d 614, 622 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 1994, writ denied) (collecting cases where disclosure was permitted). The defendant may also disclose the contents of a grand jury proceeding, but only in connection with a court proceeding and only upon petition for disclosure, filed with the court. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 20.02(d), (e).
Upon the showing of a “particularized need,” grand jury testimony can be discovered in a civil case. See Lesher v. Coyel, 435 S.W.3d 423, 430 n.3 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2014, pet. denied) (citing Euresti v. Valdez, 769 S.W.2d 575, 579 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 1989, no writ)). Under the “particularized need” standard, it is not enough that grand jury testimony may be useful to find potential inconsistencies in the witness’s statement—more is required. See In re 5 Byrd Enters., Inc., 980 S.W.2d 542, 543 (Tex. App.—Beaumont 1998, no pet.). Only if the testimony is “material to the administration of justice” will a court permit its entry into evidence. See Lesher, 435 S.W.3d at 430 n.3 (citing Stern, 869 S.W.2d at 622). Thus, courts accept grand jury testimony to prove perjury, impeach a witness, trace a breach of grand jury secrecy, and determine deficiencies in the grand jury’s composition. See Stern, 869 S.W.2d at 622.
The identities of grand jurors are not secret. See Barnhart, 2010 WL 3420823, at *11. However, personal information about grand jurors, such as home addresses or social security numbers, are only disclosable to a party in the proceeding upon a showing of good cause. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 19.42.
The Vermont Rules for Public Access to Court Records contain an exception to the general right of public access for “[r]ecords of a grand jury and any indictment of a grand jury, as provided in Rule 6 of the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure.” Vt. Pub. Acc. Ct. Rec. Rule 6(b)(3).
Under the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure, grand jury proceedings and court records in connection with these proceedings are closed to the public. See V.R.Cr.P. Rule 6(d)-(e). Specifically, V.R.Cr.P. Rule 6(d) provides that, while the grand jury is in session, only the following people may be present: “[t]he prosecuting attorney, the witness being questioned, a court security officer if the particular case circumstances should so require, interpreters when needed, and a court reporter or an operator of a recording device.” V.R.Cr.P. Rule 6(d)(1). Moreover, Rule 6(d) provides that “[n]o person other than the jurors, and any interpreter needed to assist a hearing-impaired or speech-impaired juror, may be present while the grand jury is deliberating or voting.” Id. at (d)(2). Finally, V.R.Cr.P. Rule 6 provides that “[r]ecords, orders, and subpoenas relating to grand-jury proceedings must be kept under seal to the extent and as long as necessary to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of a matter occurring before a grand jury.” Id. at (e)(6).
Grand jury proceedings are secret. See Va. Code § 19.2-192. “The rationale for non-disclosure to the public is twofold: (1) to protect the reputation of suspected individuals from the stigma which investigation alone can bring, and (2) to promote public cooperation in investigations by providing some anonymity and reducing the risk of recrimination.” Vihko v. Commonwealth, 10 Va. App. 498, 504, 393 S.E.2d 413, 417 (Va. Ct. App. 1990).
Virginia recognizes a statutory exception to grand jury secrecy when a grand jury witness is prosecuted for perjury. See Va. Code § 19.2-192.
In Virginia, “a special grand jury impaneled [sic] by the court on its own motion or on recommendation of a regular grand jury shall file a report of its findings with the court,” and the report “shall be sealed and not open to public inspection, other than by order of the court.” See Va. Code § 19.2-213. In determining whether to unseal a report of a special grand jury, a trial court in Virginia applied the test the United States Supreme Court articulated in Douglas Oil Co. of California v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 222 (1979) for unsealing grand jury materials. “Parties seeking grand jury transcripts . . . must show that the material they seek is needed to avoid a possible injustice in another judicial proceeding, that the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy, and that their request is structured to cover only material so needed. Such a showing must be made even when the grand jury whose transcripts are sought has concluded its operations . . . .” See In re Special Grand Jury Report on Town of Vinton Police Dep't, 54 Va. Cir. 482, 2001 WL 1262344, *3 (Roanoke County Cir. Ct. Feb. 7, 2001) (quoting Douglas Oil, 441 U.S. at 222).
Upon ex parte motion by the Commonwealth and for good cause shown, the circuit court may seal an indictment until such time as the defendant is arrested. Va. Code § 19.2-192.1.
RCW 10.27.090 prohibits the disclosure of grand jury proceedings. The Washington Supreme Court has stated that the right of public access does not extend to “judicial proceedings in the investigatory process.” Seattle Times Co. v. Eberharter, 105 Wn.2d 144, 157, 713 P.2d 710 (1986) (reasoning that public interest in discovering and capturing the perpetrator of a criminal act outweighed public interest in affidavit underlying search warrant in unfiled criminal case).
Grand jurors. The rule governing federal grand jury secrecy, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), places no restriction on witnesses . Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e). The Supreme Court admonished in Butterworth v. Smith, 494 U.S. 624, 626 (1990), that witnesses have a First Amendment right to publish the details of their grand jury testimony. In that case, the Court held that “insofar as the Florida law prohibits a grand jury witness from disclosing his own testimony after the term of the grand jury has ended, it violates the First Amendment,” reasoning that “the interests advanced by the portion of the Florida statute struck down are not sufficient to overcome respondent’s First Amendment right to make a truthful statement of information he acquired on his own.” Id. at 626, 636.
West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibit public access to grand juries. W. Va. R. Crim. P. 6. During the grand jury’s deliberations and voting, only the jurors and any interpreter needed to assist a hearing-impaired or speech-impaired juror may be present. W. Va. R. Crim. P. 6(d); W. Va. Code § 52-2-15(a).
Grand jury indictments may be kept secret until the defendant is in custody or has been released pending trial. W. Va. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(4). Records, orders and subpoenas relating to a grand jury proceeding must be kept under seal to the extent and for such time as necessary to prevent disclosure of matters occurring before a grand jury. W. Va. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(6). Generally, grand jurors cannot divulge what occurred during an investigation. State v. Rice, 83 W. Va. 409, 411, 98 S.E. 432, 433 (1919).
For disclosure, there must be a particularized showing that (1) the material is needed to avoid possible injustice in another judicial proceeding, (2) the need for disclosure is greater than the need for continued secrecy, and (3) the request is structured to cover only the needed material. Douglas Oil Co. v. Petrol Stops Nw., 441 U.S. 211, 222 (1979).
Petit jurors. West Virginia Trial Court Rule 8.10 doesn’t allow the identity of a juror to be broadcast, published, or recorded without prior approval, but a juror, after the completion of service, may voluntarily disclose his or her identity to the media. W. Va. Trial Ct. R. 8.10.
Wisconsin’s statutes do not contain a grand jury process. Instead, a district attorney or any other person may request that a judge convene a “John Doe” proceeding, under Wis. Stat. § 968.26, to determine whether a crime has been committed. John Doe proceedings generally are not open to the public. See Wis. Stat. § 968.26(4)(a) ("The judge may enter a secrecy order upon a showing of good cause by the district attorney."); see also State ex rel. Jackson v. Coffey, 18 Wis. 2d 529, 536, 118 N.W.2d 939 (Wis. 1963) ("Although the sitting of the court for this purpose [John Doe proceeding] need not be public . . . ."); State v. Washington, 83 Wis. 2d 808, 266 N.W.2d 597 (Wis. 1978) (holding that John Doe judge did not deny defendant due process when he held contempt proceedings as part of closed John Doe investigation).
But see State ex rel. Newspapers, Inc. v. Circuit Court, 65 Wis. 2d 66, 221 N.W.2d 894 (Wis. 1974) (stating that a motion to compel a witness to testify or produce documents at John Doe proceeding must be heard in open court); see also State ex rel. Niedziejko v. Coffey, 22 Wis. 2d 392, 400, 126 N.W.2d 96 (Wis. 1964) (stating that "[h]earings to grant immunity [in John Doe proceedings] must be public and in open court except as provided in sec. 256.14,” the predecessor to Wis. Stat. § 757.14).
See Wis. Stat. § 968.26(4)(b):
If a judge enters a secrecy order under par. (a), the judge shall terminate that secrecy order if any person applies to the judge for the termination and establishes that the good cause shown under par. (a) no longer exists. If a judge terminates a secrecy order entered under par. (a), the identity of the subject of the proceeding under this section may not be disclosed without the subject’s consent, except as provided in par. (c) [if a criminal complaint is filed].