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United States v. Index Newspapers LLC

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

February 5, 2014, Argued and Submitted, Seattle, Washington; September 5, 2014, Filed

No. 13-35243


 [*1078]  CHRISTEN, Circuit Judge:

This case requires us to decide the extent to which the public's qualified right of access to court proceedings must give way to the need for secrecy when a grand jury witness is held in civil contempt and confined. We consider the district court's order granting in part and denying in part a newspaper's motion to unseal transcripts and filings related to a grand jury witness's contempt and continued confinement proceedings.

All of the parties agree that there is no public right of access to grand jury transcripts, but Index Newspapers, LLC, dba The Stranger, asserts that once a grand jury witness is subject to ancillary contempt proceedings, any part of the contempt hearing transcript and related filings not covered by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) must be open to the public. After full consideration of the issues raised by [**5]  this case, we conclude there is a First Amendment right of access to some of the transcripts and filings  [*1079]  related to Matthew Duran's contempt proceeding. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm the district court's ruling in part, reverse in part, and remand.


On May 1, 2012, violence broke out on the streets of downtown Seattle and demonstrators dressed in black vandalized buildings and cars. The May Day demonstrators smashed windows, used large sticks to damage buildings, spray-painted cars, and committed other crimes. The William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse was one of the buildings damaged during the demonstration. These events were widely publicized by the news media, and a reporter for The Stranger, a weekly newspaper based in Seattle, began writing about the grand jury investigation that followed.

I. Contempt proceedings ancillary to the grand jury investigation

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766 F.3d 1072 *; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 17272 **; 42 Media L. Rep. 2373

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. INDEX NEWSPAPERS LLC, DBA The Stranger, Intervenor-Appellant, MATTHEW DURAN, Defendant-Appellant.

Subsequent History: Mandamus dismissed by, Without opinion by Index Newspapers LLC, (In re Index Newspapers, LLC) v. United States Dist. Court (In re Index Newspapers LLC), 584 Fed. Appx. 746, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 17246 (9th Cir., Sept. 5, 2014)

Related proceeding at In re Duran, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 173019 (W.D. Wash., Dec. 12, 2014)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. D.C. No. 12-gj-00149. Richard A. Jones, District Judge, Presiding.

Disposition: AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.


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Criminal Law & Procedure, Secrecy, Matters Occurring Before Grand Jury, Documents, Disclosure, Appellate Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Conclusions of Law, Abuse of Discretion, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Writs, Common Law Writs, Mandamus, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Collateral Order Doctrine, Governments, Courts, Court Records, Final Judgment Rule, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Speech, Forums, Grand Juries, Scope, Judicial & Legislative Restraints, Common Law, Judicial Discretion, Participants, Matters Occurring Before Grand Jury, Subpoenas, Challenges to Subpoenas, Motions to Quash, Judicial Proceedings, Investigative Authority, Contempt