September 26, 2018

The ACLU of Wisconsin is concerned about a case in which a judge has sealed the file in an open records case, as reported on by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Racine Journal Times. On Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, Racine County Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz reportedly admonished the plaintiff in the case, Racine Ald. Sandra Weidner, to abide by his secrecy orders. Weidner faces charges of contempt of court, purportedly for having discussed the case with the Journal Sentinel.

“The workings and decisions of the courts are supposed to be open to the public,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Secrecy makes it difficult for the public to understand the basis of court decisions and thus undermines respect for the courts and rule of law.

“Sealing an open records case is especially ironic. It's hard to imagine a justification for sealing an entire civil case, especially one that doesn't involve a juvenile or some serious risk of harm to a participant. Even in such cases, concerns about privacy and safety can be addressed by allowing litigants to use pseudonyms or sealing selected documents, rather than throwing a cloak of secrecy around a case. And the threat to sanction a litigant for disclosing information about the case also raises serious questions, especially since none of what has been released seems sensitive or confidential," stated Dupuis.

 

Photo Credit: Mike Steele

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