Judge issues recommendation if Scott Perry’s phone note seeks to be unsealed
The Solomon ruling is used as shorthand for a legal settlement that makes neither party happy.
In the case of U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and the efforts of the York County media to access the search warrant and supporting documents that led to the FBI seizing his cell phone in August 2022, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Schwab Last week, he issued a Solomonic recommendation addressing the US Department of Justice’s interests in keeping documents under seal while addressing the public interest in releasing the information.
At the conclusion of a 62-page document, Schwab recommended that the court disclose the materials, but also grant the US Department of Justice “to provide access to the warrant materials with targeted redactions to protect its interests.”
“It’s a solid win,” said Grayson Clary, staff attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which represents the York Daily Record, the York Dispatch and Penleaf in the case.
Briefly, he said the ruling means more information may be made public about the evidence supporting the government’s seizure of Perry’s cell phone.
previously: The unannounced court ruling highlights Scott Perry’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election
more: YDR and two other media organizations request documents to seize Scott Perry’s cell phone
But the details of the ruling give the government the right to redact documents to protect its investigations and the privacy of some of those involved in the case.
This is where it gets complicated.
Judge Schwab concluded that she did not have to “determine at this time whether the First Amendment applies to the arrest warrant materials, that the arrest warrant materials are subject to the common law presumption of access, and that the United States has demonstrated compelling reasons for not disclosing the arrest warrant.” Articles in their entirety, but the United States has not shown that the targeted revisions are insufficient to protect its compelling interests.
In doing so, it recommended that the Ministry of Justice be ordered to submit proposed amendments to the arrest warrant and its supporting documents.
What remains to be determined is how to address those revisions. The Department of Justice wanted to submit its proposed amendments to the court. The newspapers argued that the Justice Department should be ordered to file its proposed amendments on the court’s public docket and explain why the portions should remain secret.
The judge recommended that “the Court order the United States to present its amendments publicly with as much explanation as it can provide without harming its interests…in protecting its ongoing investigations and the privacy rights of some of those involved.”
The Justice Department should be allowed to provide the court with any additional information to support redactions that “may reveal information that should remain confidential,” Schwab wrote.
How redactions are handled has been an issue in the past in this case. When the Justice Department unsealed previous court files, huge blocks of text were redacted, making the documents nearly indecipherable.
In other words, the government could redact parts of documents, but it would have to publicly justify the redactions, but if the explanation for the redaction reveals information it wants to remain secret, it could ask a judge to examine the reasons behind the closing.
The bottom line is that the search warrant and documents that provided probable cause for the FBI to seize Perry’s cell phone may not be immediately available. Schwab noted in her ruling that “additional proceedings may be needed…in this case.”
The public has already gained access to what may be some documents. In Perry’s lawsuit to prevent the FBI from examining his text messages — a lawsuit that led to a federal court granting the government access to the majority of thousands of text messages — some messages were inadvertently made public when the court document was briefly disclosed. Published in the general court docket.
Those text messages detail Perry’s efforts to help former President Trump overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
This article originally appeared in the York Daily Record: An American judge issues a recommendation in the Scott Perry phone case