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Media coalition recommends changes to US Supreme Court’s proposed rule on sealing judicial records

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  1. Court Access
The Court proposed a rule governing record sealing in response to a 2019 letter from RCFP, NPR concerning sealed filings.
The Supreme Court of the United States. Photo by Kjetil Ree.
The U.S. Supreme Court (Photo by Kjetil Ree)

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, NPR and 42 news media organizations are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to make improvements to a recently proposed rule that would govern the Court’s practices for sealing judicial records.

The Supreme Court proposed a rule addressing the sealing of court documents last month, more than two years after a news media coalition led by the Reporters Committee and NPR highlighted concerns about the sharp increase in sealed filings since the 1990s and asked the Court to adopt a rule that would state a clear standard for when judicial filings may be sealed.

In a letter sent to Clerk of the Court Scott Harris on April 27, the news media coalition called the the Supreme Court’s Proposed Rule 34.7 “a positive step toward increased transparency and access to judicial records filed with the Court.” To strengthen the proposed rule, the coalition recommended three changes:

  • Adding language stating the strong presumption in favor of public access to judicial records;
  • Clarifying the standard the Supreme Court will use in evaluating motions to seal; and
  • Requiring parties to state, in their sealing motion, the period of time they seek to have the material maintained under seal.

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