Mandell Menkes Client Wins Seventh Circuit Decision on Access to Grand Jury Records

In a victory for access to court records, firm client Elliot Carlson, an award-winning naval historian, recently prevailed in the Seventh Circuit in a lawsuit seeking grand jury transcripts. Mr. Carlson, who was joined by a consortium of scholarly organizations, sought the long-sealed transcripts from a 1942 grand jury investigation of the Chicago Tribune’s alleged violation of the War Espionage Act (the only time the government has attempted to prosecute a major media organization for a violation of the act). In its reporting on the Battle of Midway, the Chicago Tribune had suggested, without directly stating, that the United States had broken the Japanese code. This was one of the more closely guarded U.S. secrets of World War II, and President Roosevelt, a longtime foe of Tribune Publisher Colonel Robert McCormick, was livid. The government instituted a grand jury proceeding against the Chicago Tribune in the summer of 1942 but ultimately dropped the prosecution. The records lay sealed for more than seven decades before Mr. Carlson sought their disclosure. The district court found that a court has inherent power to order the unsealing of grand jury transcripts, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed in a 2-1 decision. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Brendan Healey of Mandell Menkes represent Mr. Carlson. Katie Townsend of RCFP argued the appeal. Click Here for LAW360 article Click Here for Tribune article