The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge.
First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments.
Free press — Rights of privacy — Fair trial.
Competing interests, all to be resolved.
But first, let us put them in context.
On October 24, 1996, a federal grand jury issued a superseding
indictment against Michael R. Martin, William D. Ladd, Management
Services of Illinois, Inc., Ronald D. Lowder, and James R. Berger
charging them with various crimes which centered around their
scheme to defraud the Illinois Department of Public Aid of
millions of dollars. The Court conducted three separate trials in
this matter which began in June 1997 and concluded in January
1998. Along the way, the Court sealed various documents and
proceedings pursuant to the requests made by one or more of the
parties. The press objected to the sealing of these documents and
proceedings, but the Court overruled the press' objections.
The press appealed the Court's denial of its objections.
Specifically, the press appealed three rulings of this Court: (1)
the Court's denial of its petition to intervene, (2) the Court's
denial of its petition for the release of the sealed documents,
and (3) the Court's overruling of its objection concerning
Governor Jim Edgar's testimony. The United States Court of
Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further
proceedings consistent with its opinion in In re: Associated
Press, 162 F.3d 503 (7th Cir. 1998). Complying with the Seventh
Circuit's remand is the task before this Court today.
Upon receiving the Seventh Circuit's mandate and pursuant to a
motion by the press, the Court scheduled a hearing to resolve the
issues on remand. At that hearing, the Court vacated its previous
Order denying the press' petition to intervene and allowed the
press to intervene for the limited purpose of raising
constitutional and common law claims regarding access to Court
documents and proceedings. Id. at 508.
Although the Court originally denied the press' petition to
intervene, it considered and addressed all of the press'
arguments regarding the unsealing of the documents and
proceedings before doing so. Because it had considered and
rejected the press' arguments, the Court believed that it was no
longer necessary to allow the press to act as intervenors.
Nevertheless, this practice is not the preferred method in this
circuit. In re Associated Press, 162 F.3d at 508-09. The
Seventh Circuit has held "that the most appropriate procedural
mechanism by which to accomplish this task is by permitting those
who oppose the suppression of the material to intervene for that
limited purpose." Id. at 507. Therefore, at the hearing, this
Court vacated its prior Order denying the press' petition to
intervene and allowed the press to intervene for the limited
purpose of raising constitutional
and common law claims regarding access to Court proceedings and
documents, thereby accomplishing the Court's first task on
II. GOVERNOR EDGAR'S TESTIMONY
The second issue which the Court was instructed by the Seventh
Circuit to address on remand was the unsealing of the transcript
of the agreement made in chambers by the Government and James R.
Berger to take the Governor's video deposition. Id. at 513. In
all other aspects, the Seventh Circuit affirmed this Court's
handling of the Governor's testimony. Id. at 512-13.
The day prior to the hearing, the Court unsealed the transcript
of the agreement made in chambers between the Government and
James R. Berger to take the Governor's video deposition. Thus,
the Court has accomplished its second task on remand.
III. ACCESS TO SEALED DOCUMENTS
The Court's final task on remand is to "articulate its reasons
for denying access to the documents that are under seal." Id.
at 510. Although the Court believed that it was clear from the
tenor of the three trials and from the comments made throughout
why it had sealed various documents and proceedings, it is also
cognizant that no single document explained its reasons for
sealing certain documents and proceedings. Therefore, the Court
will do so here.
As both the United States Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit
have opined, "[t]he public's right of access to court proceedings
and documents is well-established." Grove Fresh Distribs., Inc.
v. Everfresh Juice Co., 24 F.3d 893, 897 (7th Cir. 1994), citing
Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court of California, ...