Victory: California Appeal Court Orders Records Unsealed

A California appeal court today issued an important opinion affirming the public’s right of access to court records. 

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles sided with FAC and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, finding that records in a civil case had been improperly hidden from the public. A unanimous three-judge panel cited the common law and constitutional right of access to judicial records, and found the superior court failed to make the appropriate findings to justify secrecy. 

The court said certain information such as medical information should be redacted and then the records unsealed.

“Based on our review of the entire record, we conclude that the documents sought by appellants were improperly sealed, not only because the trial court failed to make the required statutory findings, but because less restrictive means exist to protect respondent’s private medical information and the identity of third parties,” Justice Victoria Chavez wrote for the panel.

As part of FAC’s long-standing commitment to enforcing the public’s right to know, it teamed up with EFF and First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh to challenge secrecy in the case, a defamation lawsuit that went uncontested and resulted in a default judgment.

Volokh and Jennifer Wilson of the UCLA School of Law First Amendment amicus clinic represented FAC and EFF. 

Read the opinion in Fargo v. Tejas, B299393.