From the Boston Bar Journal: The Seal Of Approval: When is it Appropriate To Impound?

Monday, January 09, 2012

By Judge Linda E. Giles

The notion that court records should be open to the public was enshrined 370 years ago in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, the first legal code of the colonists in New England and the precursor to our Constitution and General Laws: “Every inhabitant of the Country shall have free liberty to search and review any rolls, records or registers of any Court or office …” Massachusetts Body of Liberties, art. 48 (1641). Thus, courts across the nation long have recognized a presumptive right of the public to inspect and copy court records and documents. Nixon v. Warner Communications, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 599 (1978). See F.T.C. v. Standard Financial Management Corp., 830 F.3d 404, 409 (1st Cir. 1987). The strong presumption of access aids the citizenry’s desire to keep a watchful eye on the workings of its government, Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598, and fosters the public’s desire to know whether public servants are carrying out their duties properly, George W. Prescott Publ. Co. v. Register of Probate for Norfolk County, 395, 274, 279 (1985); see Globe Newspaper Co. v. Pokaski, 868 F.2d 497, 502 (1st Cir. 1989).

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