On August 18, the ACLU of Nevada gained a victory in the case against government secrecy. Judge Dawson ruled in the ACLU of Nevada’s favor saying that the government’s filings in the subpoena case about the identity of anonymous online commenters should be available to the public - not kept secret.

The ACLU of Nevada’s case is a challenge to the U.S. Attorney’s Office attempt to subpoena identifying information about individuals who criticized the U.S. government anonymously in comments to a Las Vegas Review-Journal article. In the ACLU of Nevada’s view, the subpoenas violate the First Amendment and constitute an abuse of the U.S. Attorney’s power to issue subpoenas.

In response to the ACLU of Nevada’s challenge of the government’s subpoenas, the government filed numerous “secret” motions under seal and ex parte, which the government claimed only the judge could see. No one else, not the public, the ACLU of Nevada, nor the clients in this case, could see or review them.

The ACLU of Nevada fought to get access to a number of the secret filings, and Judge Dawson ruled in our favor. “The ACLU of Nevada is heartened by Judge Dawson’s ruling. There was simply no basis for the government’s view that this case should be kept out of the public eye,” said Maggie McLetchie, staff attorney for the ACLU of Nevada.

The ACLU of Nevada is an ardent supporter of open government, and the principle that filings should be public.  Opposing counsel should have access to court filings and information about what its government is doing is especially important in this case.

“Because the case involves prosecutorial abuse of the grand jury process and apparent retaliation against the public’s exercise of First Amendment rights, it is especially important that it be litigated in the light of day,” noted Ms. McLetchie.