The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is asking to unseal court records in the legal fight over a contempt order against a foreign state-owned corporation refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena apparently tied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
A Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher team headed by Theodore Boutrous Jr. filed motions in both the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Wednesday claiming that sealing orders in the subpoena fight have been overbroad. The Reporters Committee is asking for redacted copies of briefs, transcripts and other documents filed thus far and for any future proceedings to be open to the public.
“That this appeal arises out of contempt proceedings does not eradicate the First Amendment right,” wrote the Gibson Dunn lawyers. “In the event the Court grants certiorari, RCFP respectfully requests that the Court direct the filing of publicly redacted versions of all merits briefs, that any oral argument be held publicly, and that a redacted oral argument transcript and recording be publicly filed,” they wrote.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday restored a contempt order in the case but has not addressed the merits of an underlying decision by the D.C. Circuit that said the unidentified corporation must comply with the grand jury subpoena. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the company involved is a foreign financial institution. On Wednesday, CNN reported that Alston & Bird is involved in challenging the grand jury subpoena.
In an emailed statement Wednesday, Boutrous said the First Amendment protects the public’s right to observe appellate proceedings. “We are hopeful that the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court will grant to the public the widest access possible under these circumstances,” he said. “There is intense interest in these proceedings—all of which appear to affect matters of grave national import. This is precisely the interest the First Amendment’s right of public access was meant to protect,” he said.
Gibson Dunn and Boutrous previously represented CNN and reporter Jim Acosta in a successful challenge to the Trump administration’s decision to suspend Acosta’s access to the White House.
Read the Reporters Committee’s Supreme Court Brief:
Read the Reporters Committee’s D.C. Circuit Brief: