7:18:13 PMGateHouse Media files letter objecting to incomplete docket in Tsarnaev case
BOSTON — GateHouse Media Inc., the parent company of several Massachusetts-based community newspapers, on Wednesday submitted a letter to federal district court objecting that the public docket maintained in the criminal case against Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is missing entries.
According to the letter, "a review of the docket sheet for this case [United States v. Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev] indicates that numerous entries have not even been listed.”
"Wide swaths of court records have been omitted in their entirety from the docket listings,” the letter states. "The incomplete public docket sheet maintained in this case ... does not accurately reflect the materials on file with the Court. As a result, the Newspapers’ constitutionally protected newsgathering and reporting efforts have been frustrated.”
The letter further points out that "only 27 of a total of 69 numbered court filings are available to the press and public,” and notes that at least 42 court filings are missing completely from the docket sheet, "as if they do not exist.”
"The perception of judicial integrity is enhanced when court records are readily accessible to, not secreted away from, the public,” said attorney Michael J. Grygiel, who submitted the letter for GateHouse Media.
"Numerous entries appear to have been omitted from the public docket sheet in this important case,” Grygiel said. "The omissions apparently include motions that have been filed under seal, without notice to the press and public that impoundment was occurring, as constitutional procedures require.”
The missing entries include a sealed motion that was the subject of an electronic order issued on May 20, 2013. Referred to in the order as "30 Sealed Motion,” it was granted in part by the court.
"However, the listed docket entries nowhere include an entry numbered 30 that was evidently the subject of the Court’s order on May 20, 2013, let alone indicate that it was a motion filed under seal. Nor do they indicate whether either party electronically filed a motion for impoundment” as required by court rules, the letter reads.
The letter states that the public has "a presumptive First Amendment right to inspect and copy judicial documents.” That right "ensures that proceedings are fairly conducted, and allows the public to know that the system is working properly. These concerns take on heightened importance in a prominent case such as this, where public education and the perception of fairness are critical.”
The omission of filings leaves the press "without a meaningful mechanism by which to find the documents necessary to learn what has actually transpired in this Court in this case,” according to the letter.
By Michael Gagne
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