9 J.L. & Pol'y 53 (2000-2001)
Secrecy in Civil Trials: Some Tentative Views

handle is hein.journals/jlawp9 and id is 61 raw text is: SECRECY IN CIVIL TRIALS:
SOME TENTATIVE VIEWS
Hon. Jack B. Weinstein*
I start from the principle that everything in court should be
public and nothing secret except the internal chambers discussions
by judges with their clerks and various drafts of opinions. The
assumption that all aspects of court-centered litigation are out in
the open, on the record, and fully explained by the court is an
important foundation for the confidence our public has in its courts.
Our work differs from the closed door deals of the executive and
legislative branches. Any sacrifice of confidence by shuttering off
part of the sunshine through secrecy orders needs careful consider-
ation and justification. No one or a few such orders will debilitate
the satisfaction of our citizenry with the courts; but it is easy to
slip into addiction, thus sapping a main source of our Republic's
health.
That said, the problems become more difficult when we move
from high principle to the nuts and bolts of litigation. As a nuts
and bolts nisi prius judge, I have signed a fair number of secrecy
orders. After signing such orders, I have sometimes modified the
order to reveal sealed materials.
The issues of secrecy and confidentiality in civil (as well as
criminal) litigation have become more complex since I first
addressed them in the Agent Orange cases,' a number of banking
suits,2 and in my book on mass tort litigation.3 This change is
* Senior Judge, United States District Court, Eastern District of New York.
1 See, e.g., In re Agent Orange Prod. Liab. Litig., 104 F.R.D. 559 (E.D.N.Y.
1985). See generally PETER H. SCHUCK, AGENT ORANGE ON TRIAL: MASS
Toxic DISASTERS IN THE COURTS (1987).
2 See, e.g., In re Joint E. and S. Dist. Asbestos Litig., 129 B.R. 710
(E.D.N.Y. & S.D.N.Y. 1991), vacated on other grounds, 982 F.2d 721 (2d Cir.
1992).
' JACK B. WEINSTEIN, INDIVIDUAL JUSTICE IN MASS TORT LITIGATION: THE

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