New York Federal Criminal Practice Blog
April 13, 2010

Second Circuit Issues Notable Decision on Sealing of Sentencing Transcript

At sentencing, a defendant's most personal and intimate experiences may be discussed and analyzed.  The public has a presumptive right of access to these proceedings, and where, as in United States v. Doe, 2009 WL 4823001 (2d Cir. December 14, 2009), the defendant "seeks to seal the record of the criminal proceedings totally and permanently, the burden [to overcome that presumption] is heavy indeed."

In fact in Doe, both the defendant and the government sought the permanent sealing order based on the existence of an undisclosed "compelling interest subject to a substantial risk of prejudice."  The Court accordingly appointed amicus curiae to defend the district court's order denying the application.

Although it held that total and permanent sealing was unjustified, the Court noted that "it may be possible to protect the 'compelling interest' at issue here by sealing the sentencing transcipt in a way that is less than total and permanent.  It therefore remanded the case "to afford the parties an opportunity to apply for a sealing of the sentencing transcript that is partial, non-permanent, or both."

Lawyers:  Lee Dunst, Anne Chamption, Daniel Chirlin, Brian Mogck, Aaron Simowitz, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP (amicus curiae); AUSAs Elizabeth Kramer, Peter Norling, Jo Ann Navickas

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