In EXPOSÉ’s “In a Small Town,” a court clerk and an anonymous source lead reporter Peter Zuckerman to sealed court cases documenting past sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America.
Other papers have examined court records and discovered instances of potentially improper sealing. For example, the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL found sealed cases involving powerful people, dangerous products, the sexual abuse of minors, sometimes even the judges’ own friends and relatives. Journalists need to access those files to find out the facts that allow them to report responsibly. Some, including Poynter.org’s Al Tompkins, argue that sealing cases violates the public’s right to know, and that “open courts are a bedrock principle worth defending.”
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also published some tips for reporters covering sealed cases.