National media organizations today are bringing attention to the First Amendment concerns over the proliferation of sealed filings at the Supreme Court and are asking the justices to do something about.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, National Public Radio at 51 other press groups sent a letter to the court that asks the justices to adopt a rule whereby “those seeking to seal documents filed with the Court first demonstrate an interest in secrecy that overcomes the public’s presumptive right of access and that the sealing or redactions they propose be tailored to that interest.”
The letter comes as a response to the staggering increase in sealed SCOTUS filings: 46 in OT18, as compared to about five per term in the 1990s.
Fix the Court’s executive director Gabe Roth issued the following statement in support:
“The Supreme Court is too powerful and too consequential for its records to be kept from the public eye. By adopting the proposed rules changes, the court can improve transparency and foster public trust.
“Sealing certain records due to privacy or national security concerns can be an important facet of due process, but when used to excess, as is the case today, it damages public access and the public’s ability to hold the court to account.
“I applaud the Reporters Committee, NPR and their partners for seeking to protect the presumption of openness enshrined in both the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent.”
Earlier this year, RCFP and NPR filed a motion to unseal certain records related to the execution of an Alabama prisoner. According to NPR, “None of the information that has been sealed has anything to do with the defendant’s guilt. Rather, the information involves the drugs and the protocol Alabama uses for executions.”
Unnecessarily sealed filing in cases related to the opioid epidemic have recently been of public concern, thanks to a Reuters investigation, and has caught the attention, and consternation, of the House Judiciary Committee.