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Third Circuit promises an end to secret dockets

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  1. Court Access
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has issued a notice pledging that all dockets – court records…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has issued a notice pledging that all dockets – court records that list filings, hearing dates, and other basic case information – will be open to the public. 

The notice comes amid controversy over secrecy in the circuit, stemming from a Pennsylvania employment discrimination case that was kept secret for more than seven years. Dozens of news organizations, including the Reporters Committee, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to accept review and allow public access to the case, New York Law Publishing Company v. Doe.  

On November 4, just a few days before the Supreme Court declined to take the case, the Third Circuit released a notice saying that the type of blanket sealing at issue would no longer be permitted.  

The notice, signed by Circuit Clerk Marcia M. Waldron, said, “Because the text of the docket contains procedural information only, Court of Appeals dockets will not be sealed.”

Waldron added that other documents could still be sealed under appropriate circumstances.  

Robert C. Clothier of Fox Rothschild LLP, who represented New York Law Publishing Company, called the notice a "significant victory," adding that he hoped “the district courts within the Third Circuit will take this notice as effectively telling them what they cannot do.”