Friday, January 23, 2009

Plea agreements to be available again

We have discussed before (and criticized) the local rule taking plea agreements off-line and hiding them from the public. Here's what we said back then:

This is a silly policy, which is only in place in this District (as far as I know). Hopefully it will be changed soon (the local rules committee is studying it). If there are safety concerns for cooperating witnesses, then those concerns should be addressed in that particular case, but to have a blanket policy making it more difficult to get these documents.... Haven't we learned from the State scandal involving secret docs?

We also noted that Chief Judge Moreno was a judge who believed in courtrooms being open to the public and was generally against things being secret. He said back then in an interview with Julie Kay:

“I’m a very open person,” Moreno said. “My personal feeling is that if something is said in open court, it should be an open record.”

As for plea deals: "Moreno said the court will continue to study another issue that recently has generated controversy — whether plea agreements should be posted online."

Now that they have studied it, the en banc district court has issued administrative order 2009-2, rescinding the old rule making plea agreements secret and ordering:

that as of February 20, 2009, the Southern District of Florida's current policy of providing limited electronic access to plea agreements is rescinded. All plea agreements filed on or after February 20, 2009 will be public documents, with full remote access available to all members of the public and the bar, unless the Court has entered an Order in advance directing the sealing or otherwise restricting a plea agreement.

Well done Chief Judge Moreno and the rest of the court!

UPDATE -- Kathy Williams and AFPD Beatriz Bronis represented the defense on this issue. Congrats to them as well.


Anonymous said...

The plea agreements were not "secret"; they were just not accessible remotely via PACER. The court had legitimate concerns, particularly involving safety, and it evaluated the issue and determined that making the plea agreements accessible remotely was appropriate. Your posting saying that the plea agreements were "secret" suggests that the district court sealed all plea agreements, thus making them unavailable from the public, until. That is not true. Typical of this blog to suggest that concerns beyond those expressed by the defense bar are somehow inappropriate -- and to mischaracterize that with which you do not agree.

Anonymous said...


Okay Dick Cheney. Maybe David used the wrong term and should have said the plea terms were being kept "secreter" than they should have been.

Bottom line is that the public's access to information was limited beyond that which was reasonable, based upon the hysterical rantings of inadequately supervised prosecutors.

Glad to see Acosta's office is quickly implementing the Obama executive order to err on the side of disclosure...NOT.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you how this is going to work out. Prosecutors will be aware that if there's any cooperation language in the plea agreement, that info will become available. Prosecutors will not run the risk of having that information fall into the hands of certain individuals who, shall we say, might be more prone to "influence" that cooperating defendant. Prosecutors will do the following: exclude any cooperation language from the plea agreement and/or have defendant's plead straight up to the indictment whenever possible. The cooperation language that would otherwise be in the plea agreement if it were sealed would be included in a letter to cooperating defendant's lawyer that would never make it into the court record (and would be dislosed as Giglio during discovery under the SDO).

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with that, or even putting it orally into the record at a change of plea hearing.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews, is Lord. I don't like Obama because he's not a Christian.

Anonymous said...

Well . . . I really should say that I don't like his non-Christian agenda. He believes that the beliefs of muslims and non-believers deserve just as much weight as the beliefs of Christians.

Anonymous said...

I think the Romans referred to Jesus as the "King of the Jews" before they crucified him. You calling him that displays your true ignorance.

Here is a brief discussion:

The very first question Pilate asked when Jesus was brought before him was "Are you the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33). Jesus answered by saying "My kingdom is not of this world" (18:36), and Pilate said "So you are a king?" (18:37). It is not clear what Pilate understood about the Kingship of Jesus. But certainly in our reading today Pilate speaks of Jesus as king of the Jews. Let me remind you of what he said.

19:14 He said to the Jews, "Here is your King."

19:15 Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?"

19:19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." It was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek (19:20).

19:21-22 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but, "This man said, I am the King of the Jews'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

Anonymous said...

I like you Ed, even when you are an a-hole.

Anonymous said...

The same person who wrote the first message using the expression "King of the Jews."

You're right. Jesus is the messiah, "the son of the living God" as Peter described him. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. God in the flesh. Muslims, Mormons, and Catholics (for that matter) follow a false faith that is not anointed with the holy spirit, the comforter.

Anonymous said...

what about plea agreements prior to 2009? Where can they be found and are they public?