Judge Vows Openness, But Many Court Files Are Sealed


Three defendants’ sentences in a case involving killings and drug dealing by Tulsa’s Hoover Crips gang were unsealed last week by federal trial judge Terance Kern but about one third of the case file remains shrouded in mystery, says the Tulsa World. Nearly all records of more than 5,000 federal defendants whose cases were completed in 2003, 2004 and 2005 were being kept secret, said an Administrative Office of U.S. Courts study reported by The Associated Press in March.

Chief District Judge Claire Eagan told the World in a written statement that very few criminal proceedings and motions are sealed. A sentencing hearing may be partially sealed or conducted in secret if the government has asked to deviate from sentencing guidelines because of the defendant’s cooperation with the prosecution, she said. A federal prosecutor said the Justice Department has told prosecutors to avoid sealing documents and hearings whenever possible. Prosecutors are supposed to document the reasons for sealing or attempting to seal proceedings, he said, and Tulsa’s federal judges are “sensitive to the issue of the public’s right to know.”

Link: http://www.tulsaworld.com/NewsStory.asp?ID=061112_Ne_A19_Court22789

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