First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
Nev. high court adopts rules for sealing civil court cases

By The Associated Press
01.03.08

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Civil court records will remain open unless a compelling case can be made for sealing them, under a rule enacted this week by the Nevada Supreme Court.

The rule, approved Dec. 31 by all seven high court justices, “underscores the court’s belief in open government and our commitment to preserve the public nature of the business of the judicial branch,” said Chief Justice Bill Maupin.

The rule, recommended by the high court’s Commission on Preservation, Access and Sealing of Court Records, allows anyone, whether a party to the case or not, to request the unsealing of a court record.

Agreement of the parties involved in a lawsuit isn’t enough to seal a court record, and anyone objecting to a record-unsealing would have to make a case to a judge on why the information should be kept confidential.

Before a record could be sealed, a judge would have to make a written finding based on a balancing test to see whether sealing would be justified by “compelling privacy or safety interests that outweigh the public interest in access to the court record.”

The rule prohibits “super-sealing,” or sealing of an entire file. A broad provision allows for case-by-case evaluations to determine whether certain records in a file should be kept closed.

Washoe County District Judge Brent Adams, who chaired the court records commission, has said the rule will serve as “a good practical guide” for Nevada judges and is line with the overarching concept that courts are public institutions.

Justice Jim Hardesty, who served on the reform panel, said the rule applies to all current court records as well as future court records.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association and also a member of the court records commission, has said judges still could seal records to protect trade secrets or confidential tax records, or to keep people from being exposed to identity theft — but it won’t be enough to just ask a judge to keep the record secret.

The issue of sealed records was taken up by the Nevada Supreme Court at the same time the 2007 Legislature was looking into the matter. A bill to prohibit closed records unless the release of information posed a danger to the public was rejected by a Senate panel because of the state Supreme Court review.

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, sought the measure after a series of Las Vegas Review-Journal articles in February found Clark County judges had sealed 115 civil cases since 2000.


Related

Conn. judge unseals some 'super-sealed' cases

Special designation had removed cases from court dockets; clerks weren't allowed to acknowledge their existence. 02.22.07

N.H. courts drop fees for unsealing case records
Move eases public access to court files that once were routinely sealed by judges. 03.27.07

Fla. high court OKs emergency rules on secret records
Crediting news media with alerting them to problem, justices issue guidelines to stop improper sealing of court records, dockets in civil cases. 04.06.07

Ohio justices draft rules for accessing court records
Chief justice says proposal, which marks first time high court has put public-records policies in writing, attempts to balance personal privacy and public's right to know. 11.21.07

Nevada Supreme Court rules justice improperly sealed judge's case
Justice Nancy Saitta was a county district court judge when she placed gag on child-support matter involving former judicial colleague. 01.01.08

Secrecy in Minn. federal court troubles First Amendment experts
Star Tribune probe finds 83 criminal cases under seal; 'It used to be that sealings were extraordinarily, extraordinarily exceptional,' says attorney Martin Garbus. 02.21.08

Court seals Nev. governor's divorce file
Carson City judge says details of case will be kept secret at Gov. Jim Gibbons' request, but some matters, including orders and eventual judgment, will be public. 05.06.08

Info in Okla. court cases frequently kept under wraps
Tulsa World analysis finds thousands of cases and documents have been sealed by state district judges since 2003. 08.12.08

Legal newspaper asks high court to unseal docket
Public might never have known about Pennsylvania case except for 3rd Circuit decision earlier this year that revived the 'Jane Doe' lawsuit. 09.15.08

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

print this   Print


Last system update: Monday, September 22, 2008 | 18:04:18
 SEARCH  MORE
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
Video/RSS/podcasts
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment
reports

First Reports
Supreme Court
Experts
Columnists
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Glossary
Freedom Sings™
Events
First Amendment
Schools

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment
Library

Lesson plans
freedomforum.org
Newseum
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links