Protecting the Right of Public Access to Court Records and Stored Communications Act Warrant Materials

Lawsuit on behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to unseal certain search warrant materials

On behalf of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Samuelson Clinic filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota, seeking unsealing of certain search warrant materials. Under the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), the government can compel third-party electronic communication or remote computing service providers, such as Google, to disclose the contents of their subscribers’ communications, such as the content of their emails. The SCA requires the government to obtain a search warrant to access these communications, but the documents related to these warrants are often hidden from public view. The press and public have a strong interest in accessing these documents. The lawsuit brought by the clinic requested that the District of Minnesota unseal recent and future SCA search warrant materials and dockets. It argued that the First Amendment and the common law require public access to these materials. Negotiations resulted in the flagging of search warrants and other electronic-surveillance requests on dockets, as well as improved notice to the public about how it can view unsealed warrants and surveillance orders. After further litigation and an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the clinic’s involvement in this matter has closed. 

Legal Filings

8th Circuit Court of Appeals