NEFAC, Media Organizations Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Adopt Rule on Record Sealing


CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

The New England First Amendment Coalition and 52 media organizations recently asked the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a rule that would state a clear standard for when court filings may be sealed.

In a December 16 letter to Chief Justice John Roberts — drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press — the organizations explained that the court granted requests to shield records from the public in 46 cases during its 2018 term.

This is by far the highest total over a 30-year period in which the court has allowed an increasing number of secret filings.

“Although sealing may be warranted in certain cases, this recent marked increase in secrecy is concerning to members of the press who rely on access to the Court’s records to inform the public about the important work of the Court,” according to the letter. “It is also at odds with the Court’s long-standing commitment to openness and the First Amendment.”

A comprehensive Reporters Committee review of Supreme Court journals dating back to 1990 found that the court has granted sealing in an increasing number of cases, especially in the past few years. The increase in sealing does not appear to be due to a rise in the Supreme Court’s caseload.

The Reporters Committee’s review concluded that in many cases, motions to seal records were granted by the Supreme Court even though parties provided no justification for secrecy other than that the filings were sealed in lower courts.

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 Hearst Connecticut Media Group, the Barr Foundation, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.