The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to adopt a procedural rule proposed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press intended to limit the number of civil cases it puts under seal, citing a recently adopted Judicial Conference policy that encourages federal judges to limit the number of cases they seal from public view.
In the wake of a marked increase in the number of sealed civil cases that went before the Court in recent years, the Reporters Committee asked the Court in September to consider adopting a rule that would set standards for limiting public access to the records of the cases going before the high court.
William Suter, Clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, said in a Nov. 4 letter to the Reporters Committee that the Supreme Court would rely on lower courts to follow the guidelines suggested by the Judicial Conference, rather than adopting its own rules for evaluating the sealing of cases that go before the high court.
“The Court considered your submission and decided not to add a provision to the Supreme Court Rules concerning sealing documents. The Judicial Conference recently adopted a policy that should reduce the number of documents sealed in lower courts. This will, in turn, reduce the number of sealed documents submitted to this Court,” Suter's letter said.
Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish characterized the decision as neither a victory nor a defeat.