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US Bill Against Court Secrecy Highlighted By Press Exclusion from Larry Ray Case Documents

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC-Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN NY Mag

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 7 – Amid continuing disputes about secrecy and sealing in the courts, the US Senate and House will now consider a bill to require Federal District Judges to provide public notice and an affordable way to contest requests to seal documents in the cases before them.

  Inner City Press, which daily covers the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (as well as EDNY and DDC), has had numerous recent experiences in the field of over-secrecy and hurdles to contesting it.

  For example, in the just concluded US v. Larry Ray case, involving the Sarah Lawrence College sex cult, Inner City Press submitted a request to unseal documents. But District Judge Lewis J. Liman ruled:

"ORDER as to Lawrence Ray: The Court has received an email from Inner City Press asking that the Court unseal materials submitted by the parties in this matter. Inner City Press is not a party to this case, nor did it submit a motion to intervene. Accordingly, the Court will not consider Inner City Press's request to unseal the documents. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Lewis J. Liman."  

 While Inner City Press is nevertheless through investigative journalism publishing documents from the case (see the forthcoming #JohnListGone), this ruling is part of the problem.

The public, or the press, should not have to be or hire an attorney to contest over-secrecy in a public case.  

What should be added to the bill, introduced by  Senate Judiciary Committee members Sheldon Whitehouse and Richard Blumenthal. and  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, is routine listen-only telephone access to Federal criminal cases and trials.

This became common during the COVID pandemic but it is being ended, on the January 6 trial of Guy Reffitt by Judge Dabney Friedrich in DDC, and currently by EDNY Chief Judge Margo Brodie in the 1MDB case of US v. Roger Ng / Jho Low (in which the press is not even allowed to be in the courtroom, and Inner City Press even after applying to the court has had to be leaving its phone and laptop in a third floor room, not in the "overflow" court room). 

 On April 6 Inner City Press reported a criminal case in the SDNY in which the criminal defense lawyers thanked the judge from allowing virtual access, for their own reasons (less travel and expense to clients). But it is important for the public and press too. Inner City Press will have more on this. 


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