The United States Attorney’s office is attempting to dismiss the ACLU of Nevada's case seeking to quash the subpoena seeking information about two anonymous commenters on a Las Vegas Review-Journal article. The government filed the motion ex parte and under seal, meaning that neither the public nor the ACLU and its clients were given a copy.
This case is about whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office abused its grand jury subpoena power by issuing improper “fishing expedition” subpoenas that sought information protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Attorneys threatened to prosecute individuals who disagreed with their position in a criminal case and also threatened to chill the jurors from acquitting the defendants in the criminal case.
From the ACLU’s perspective, the public has the right to know what happens in this case. In addition, the commenters should have a fair shake at litigating the case, which cannot happen if the U.S. Attorney’s office is able to keep its filings secret from the ACLU, its clients, and the public.
This case raises questions fundamental to our democracy and about the proper limits of prosecutors’ grand jury powers. The public interest in open court proceedings is especially heightened in this instance since, on behalf of the anonymous commenters, the ACLU of Nevada has requested that Judge Dawson recuse himself from the case.
The significant press coverage and public comment that the subpoenas have sparked highlights the need for public access to this case.