The crypt at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas inched open this month as the public got its first glimpse of court records once considered to be permanently hidden, reports the city’s Review-Journal. Looking to correct mistakes dating back 18 years, District Court administrators have taken on the tedious task of unsealing lawsuits and civil court documents incorrectly sealed years earlier. A team of courthouse clerks is expected to work overtime in the coming weeks to identify hundreds of civil court filings, sort dozens of lawsuits from other sealed civil filings, examine each sealed lawsuit document by document, reclassify the records sealed correctly and unseal those that never should have been hidden from the public.
A Review-Journal series last year showed that Clark County judges claimed authority to seal cases at their discretion and without providing justification. New rules now prohibit ad hoc sealing of cases. The newspaper series noted that litigants in many of the sealed cases were wealthy or influential individuals, organizations or companies. Since 1990, clerks had sealed entire lawsuits from public view, even if judges ordered only certain parts sealed, because the courthouse’s computer system was incapable of sealing specific records in a case. As a result, the public has been unable to find out basic information on those cases, such as the names of the judge and attorneys in a case, the dates of hearings and the motions filed.