NEFAC Fights Against Secrecy in Nathan Carman Probate Case, Demands Release of Documents

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition is fighting an effort to keep secret judicial records in a case involving Nathan Carman, a Vermont resident being investigated for the murder of his wealthy grandfather and the disappearance of his mother.

Family members are suing Carman in a New Hampshire probate court to prevent him from collecting his mother’s share of their estate.

The court last month ordered all documents in the case to be sealed. A reporter from the Union Leader objected to the order and filed a motion to unseal these documents. NEFAC supported the motion in an April 10 legal memorandum submitted to the court.

“The courts of New Hampshire have always considered their records to be public, absent some overriding consideration or special circumstance,” explained attorney Gregory V. Sullivan on behalf of the coalition and the Union Leader. Sullivan is a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors.

Privacy is not a sufficient reason to keep the records secret because the documents pertain to Carman’s grandfather who is deceased, Sullivan wrote. There is also no evidence that releasing the documents would interfere with the federal and state investigations into the grandfather’s death, he added.

NEFAC is requesting from the court an opportunity to present an oral argument in support of unsealing the documents.

The request and memorandum are the latest efforts by NEFAC to protect First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know. Sullivan last month successfully prevented New Hampshire prosecutors from forcing a Foster’s Daily Democrat reporter to provide unpublished interview notes. NEFAC criticized the prosecutors’ attempt as “an affront to the First Amendment.”

Earlier this month, the coalition argued against the sealing of court records in a civil rights case involving Harvard College’s admissions practices. NEFAC recently demanded timely access to juror identities and argued against indiscriminate record sealing. The coalition also advocated for immediate access to civil court documents, access to private email accounts under Vermont’s public records law, the right to record police activity and the preservation of anti-SLAPP laws.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.