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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Too Much Court Secrecy is a Challenge to Justice

Paul McMasters' latest column is up at the Freedom Forum:

"Because nearly every matter of consequence and controversy in our society eventually winds up in court, Americans have a vital interest in staying informed about how well justice is delivered.

"Unfortunately, the judicial system is as susceptible as the other branches of government to reflexive secrecy. The courts are under enormous pressure to keep a vast array of information out of the sight -and thus away from oversight - of ordinary citizens.

"In the course of trying criminals and refereeing disputes between private parties, judges at the local, state and federal levels constantly are called on to protect personal safety and privacy. In addition, they worry about revealing national security information, disrupting ongoing law enforcement investigations or exposing corporate secrets.

So they shut the public out in many important ways. Judges regularly seal confidential information about defendants, plaintiffs, informants, witnesses and jurors. They issue orders muzzling the parties to legal action, they keep information off the public docket and they deny access to discovery material and settlements.

Go here for the rest of the column.