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Scrutinizing ‘Supersealed’ Cases


— December 1, 2003

In the belly of downtown Miami’s sprawling federal court complex, there’s a large, walk-in vault kept by the court clerk that few people have ever seen. Those who have seen it say it has row upon row of red file folders.

The red folders are embossed with the word “sealed.” Inside the folders are the court’s secrets, including grand jury records, documents with the names of confidential informants and trade secrets. Those matters have been kept off the public record by judges who ordered them sealed in accordance with either local court rules or specific statutes. This year, however, the Daily Business Review reported on two cases in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that involve a wholly different and — to many judges and lawyers — a more disturbing brand of secrecy. Some have dubbed these cases supersealed. One involves a terrorism-related investigation and a habeas corpus petition; the other is a narcotics case.

The secrecy in these two cases goes well beyond the red file cases in that Miami court vault. Perhaps more importantly, the secrecy in these two cases was put into place without any explicit legal process or criteria established by Congress or the Supreme Court. In one case, the secrecy was imposed over the objections of one of the parties.

Read more about this troubling development here from the Miami Daily Business Review via Law.com.


In the belly of downtown Miami’s sprawling federal court complex, there’s a large, walk-in vault kept by the court clerk that few people have ever seen. Those who have seen it say it has row upon row of red file folders.

The red folders are embossed with the word “sealed.” Inside the folders are the court’s secrets, including grand jury records, documents with the names of confidential informants and trade secrets. Those matters have been kept off the public record by judges who ordered them sealed in accordance with either local court rules or specific statutes. This year, however, the Daily Business Review reported on two cases in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that involve a wholly different and — to many judges and lawyers — a more disturbing brand of secrecy. Some have dubbed these cases supersealed. One involves a terrorism-related investigation and a habeas corpus petition; the other is a narcotics case.

The secrecy in these two cases goes well beyond the red file cases in that Miami court vault. Perhaps more importantly, the secrecy in these two cases was put into place without any explicit legal process or criteria established by Congress or the Supreme Court. In one case, the secrecy was imposed over the objections of one of the parties.

Read more about this troubling development here from the Miami Daily Business Review via Law.com.

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