Judge Not Allowed To Hide Google's Report About Shutting Down Gmail Account Per Judge's Order

from the public-scrutiny dept

You may recall, a few years ago, a lawsuit involving Rocky Mountain Bank, who apparently screwed up (badly) and sent confidential and "sensitive" information concerning customers to a gmail email address entirely by mistake. The bank went to court to find out who the recipient was... and the court ordered Google to just shut down the account. We found this troubling that the court could just shut down the account, without even giving the individual whose account it was a chance to respond. Also troubling, was that Google agreed and shut down the account. MediaPost Communications (who reported on the story), represented by Public Citizen, was curious as to why this happened, and asked for the court to make Google's compliance report public. They were (of course) fine with the fact that customer info could be redacted, but the overall report should be made public. Amazingly, the district court judge refused, saying that since he'd asked Google to send him the report directly (rather than file it with the court Clerk's Office), that it had never been filed and thus was not subject to publication.

Thankfully, an appeals court has now said otherwise:
We were concerned that the suit was filed improperly, that without even considering the obvious flaws in the lawsuit the judge had jumped the gun in issuing a restraining order without giving either Google or the anonymous user a chance to respond, that Google had gone along with the TRO far too easily any notice, and that by denying of access to the compliance report Judge Ware was sweeping all these past mistakes under the rug.  Consequently, representing MediaPost Communications, which broke this story in the first place, we appealed this ruling, while agreeing that to the extent that the compliance report disclosed the anonymous userís identity, that information should be redacted.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has now held that the right of public access cannot be so easily evaded.  Having been demanded by the judge so that he, and Rocky Mountain, could be sure that the TRO had been obeyed, "the report in question is a quintessential judicial document," the court said.  The public's right cannot be evaded by labeling the submission process as "lodging" instead of "filing." The court therefore reversed and remanded with instructions to release the document with redaction only for any truly private and confidential information.

Filed Under: email, restraining order
Companies: google, rocky mountain bank


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2011 @ 11:36pm

    I can see why the judge would wanna do that, however I think the guy should have had the opportunity to challenge it afterwards, since this seems to me like one of those "without prior notice"

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