Recently in Access Category

Meanwhile, the Pentagon and the C.I.A. sue authors over books

Access Limited after California Pipeline Explosion

Police keep reporters out; utility company cites security concerns in withholding records

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota violated the Minnesota Open Meeting Law (OML) and the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (GDPA) when it secretly interviewed candidates to fill the post of university president. (See Star Tribune Co. v. University of Minnesota Board of Regents, 667 N.W.2d 447 (Minn. App. 2003).) The court of appeals affirmed a district court ruling that the Regents violated these laws and must disclose data on the candidates.

Transcripts Unsealed in Terrorist Case

In early June 2003, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marilyn Clark agreed to unseal previously secret transcripts of bail hearings for Mohammed El-Atriss, who admittedly provided fake ID cards to two of the 19 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.


A California appeals court ruled in late June that sealing documents in civil lawsuits "requires more than a mere agreement of the parties." The decision in Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 484 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. 2003)), involved disclosure of the terms of a settlement agreement between two movie companies, Universal City Studios and Unity Pictures Corp., in litigation brought by Unity Pictures to rescind an allegedly fraudulent clause in the settlement.

A divided federal Court of Appeals (D.C. Cir.) panel ruled this summer that exemptions to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allow the government to withhold the names of detainees taken into custody following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

United States v. Reynolds

Recently declassified government documents were at the heart of a request to reopen a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court case involving the crash of an Air Force plane that killed nine people, four of them civilians. The families of three of the deceased men petitioned the high court for a writ of coram nobis, that is, to correct a judgment it made that was later found to turn on an error of fact. That case is United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1 (1953). Because the case was decided during the Cold War, legal scholars cite it as setting the precedent that gives the executive branch the power to withhold information from the judiciary when national security could be compromised. The case was invoked in arguments in both the Pentagon Papers and Watergate trials.

The Laci Peterson Murder Trial

Stanislaus County (Calif.) Superior Court Judge Al Girolami has banned cameras and recording devices from the preliminary hearing of murder suspect Scott Peterson. The Aug. 18, 2003, ruling does not bar reporters from the courtroom, but forbids any sort of broadcast, tape recording or still photography of the proceedings.

Courtroom Television Network, LLC. v. State of New York

In July 2003, the Supreme Court for New York County, a trial court, ruled against Court TV's challenge to the constitutionality of the New York state law barring television cameras from trial courts. (See Courtroom Television Network, LLC. v. State of New York, 2003 WL 21787909 (N.Y. Sup. 2003).)

Government Requests Closure of Deportation Hearing

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in early August 2003 asked immigration Judge Robert Newberry to close the Detroit deportation hearing of a Syrian man with alleged ties to al-Qaeda.


United States v. Moussaoui

The case of United States v. Moussaoui, in the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, began with a question: Can the civilian court system handle a highly sensitive, national security case and emerge with its tradition of transparency and public access intact?

Rules Restricting Photographers Draw Criticism

New Measures Proposed by Department of Interior, New York City

Filmmakers and photojournalists said new rules proposed in 2007 by both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting might hamper press freedom and stifle speech.

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