Lawyers representing The New York Times and the Associated Press have asked a federal appeals court in Washington to unseal an opinion issued earlier this year in a Guantanamo Bay detainee case.
Saying that federal law does not sanction a “system of secret justice,” the lawyers for the media companies urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to publish, in the least, a redacted version of the ruling.
The D.C. Circuit decision in January apparently favored the government and overruled a trial court opinion. Lawyers for the detainee, Djamel Ameziane, unsuccessfully asked the full court to hear the dispute. A sealed petition for certiorari was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in June. The petition is scheduled for conference Sept. 27.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department unsuccessfully asked the court to unseal the opinion. A split three-judge panel rejected the request. Judge Douglas Ginsburg voted to publish a redacted opinion. Ameziane’s attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights were opposed to the publication of the ruling.
Much of the trial and appellate court record in the case remains under seal. In the D.C. Circuit, DOJ lawyers were challenging a ruling issued by Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. Huvelle’s order remains confidential. The appeals court heard argument in a closed door session last year.
“Both courts’ orders are sealed—without public explanation—as is all briefing by both parties, even though this proceeding involves matters of significant, on-going public interest,” lawyers for the media outlets said in court papers filed Sept. 16. The Times and Associated Press are represented by Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, a Washington-based firm that specializes in media law.
The government has cited the D.C. Circuit’s sealed order in opposing the effort of journalists to get information in detainee cases in federal district court in Washington, Levine Sullivan partner David Schulz in New York said in court papers. “It is fundamentally unfair to require the [press] to argue about the meaning of authority they are not even permitted to read,” Schulz said.
The Justice Department and lawyers for Ameziane have not filed court papers responding to the request. The D.C. Circuit did not immediately rule on the motion.