NEFAC, Press Advocates Recommend Changes to U.S. Supreme Court’s Proposed Rule on Sealing Judicial Records

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition recently joined fellow press advocates to call for more transparency within the U.S. Supreme Court. 

In an April 27 letter, the organizations addressed the troubling trend of sealing documents in an increasing number of cases each year and suggested changes to the court’s proposed Rule 34.7.

“Compelling, countervailing interests — supported by on-the-record findings — sometimes necessitate sealing or redaction of judicial records,” the groups wrote in the letter drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

But, they added, “undue secrecy in matters pending before the court is deeply concerning to members of the press who rely on access to the court’s records to inform the public about the court’s important work.”

The groups proposed three changes to the proposed rule on sealing documents:

(1) Include a strong presumption in favor of access to judicial records.

(2) Clarify the standard currently used when evaluating motions to seal.

(3) Require parties to state, in their sealing motion, the period of time they seek to have the material kept under seal.

A comprehensive 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 several years. The increase in sealing does not appear to be due to a rise in the Supreme Court’s caseload.

In 2019, NEFAC and other press advocates asked the court to adopt a rule that would state a clear standard for when court filings may be sealed.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly writes and joins advocacy letters in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

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.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, Connecticut Public and GBH-Boston.