Newsday LLC v. County of Nassau

730 F.3d 156 (2013)

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Newsday LLC v. County of Nassau

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
730 F.3d 156 (2013)

Facts

Sharon Dorsett (plaintiff) filed a civil-rights suit against the County of Nassau and related parties (collectively, the county) (defendants) relating to the death of her daughter, Jo’Anna Bird. Bird had been fatally stabbed by an ex-boyfriend despite having several protective orders against him. The police allegedly failed to protect Bird because the ex-boyfriend was a police informant. Through discovery, Dorsett obtained a redacted copy of an investigation report by the Nassau County Police Department Internal Affairs Unit (IAU report), detailing the incident. Dorsett announced her intent to release the report to the public. Newsday LLC and other media outlets (collectively, Newsday) were interested in receiving a copy, but the county obtained a protective order from the court to seal the report. Thereafter, the county reached a $7.7 million proposed settlement with Dorsett. The trial court allowed several county officials to review the IAU report for the purpose of approving the settlement while being bound to the protective order. One official, Peter Schmitt, reviewed the confidential report and subsequently made a televised statement that appeared to reveal some confidential facts from the report. A contempt hearing ensued to determine whether Schmitt violated the protective order. Instead of admitting the IAU report in evidence, the court allowed a witness, assistant chief of police Neil Delargy, to testify about a few parts of the report that related to Schmitt’s statement. Delargy sometimes refreshed his recollection by referring to the report. The court also closed the courtroom during a few segments of testimony. Newsday objected to the sealed court proceedings and the sealed report. In response, the court unsealed most of the hearing transcript, finding that the hearing was mostly not confidential, but kept the IAU report sealed. The court also sanctioned Schmitt. Newsday appealed the decision keeping the report and part of the hearing transcript sealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lynch, J.)

Concurrence (Lohier, J.)

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