Judicial Conference Ask Judges to Hide Snitch Records
Grits for Breakfast has the scoop on the memo that went out to federal judges asking them to consider sealing the records of those who cooperated with the government to get leniency in their own cases. The full memo is here (pdf).
What's behind the request? Their fear the snitches will turn up on the internet site Who's a Rat.
Among the items perceived as appropriate for sealing: Plea agreements of the cooperators. The Judicial Conference says they look forward to working closely with the Department of Justice in this matter.
Here's a sentence in the memo I find puzzling:
Therefore, we recommend that judges consider sealing documents or hearing transcripts in accordance with applicable law in cases that involve sensitive information or in cases in which incorrect inferences may be made.
An example given is a motion to continue a sentencing hearing in which reasons are spelled out. Typically, at least those that I've seen, state that a cooperating defendant is still working for the Man and the sentencing should be postoned until the cooperation is finished so the court (based on the government's recommendation) can decide how much leniency to give.
What "incorrect inferences" can be drawn from such a pleading or any pleading in which the Government confirms or a defense lawyer states a particular defendant is cooperating?
I'm afraid this will lead to too much secrecy. When a person decides to cooperate, they put themselves at risk. They've made the decision that the risk of possible harm is outweighed by the reward of a reduced sentence. It's a deal with the proverbial devil -- but one that is well-thought out and arrived at with the benefit of counsel. Why should the public, and even potential employers, be denied access to this information?
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