Confidentiality in court proceedings can have harmful consequences. In some instances, it can be deadly. Look no further than the notorious Remington Model 700 cases. By requiring that settlements with injury victims be kept confidential, the firearms company was able to keep a dangerous defect in its Model 700 rifles—that they fire when no one pulled the trigger—under wraps for years.
Yet, even after high-profile cases like this have come to light, court-imposed secrecy remains an all-too-common practice not only with settlements, but throughout the litigation process. Yarborough Applegate attorney Liam Duffy tackles this topic in the latest SCAJ Justice Bulletin magazine.
“Confidentiality of court proceedings and documents is a matter of public importance and, frankly, public health. President Kennedy once said that the idea of secrecy is ‘repugnant in a free and open society.’ That remains true today. The civil justice system should always serve to bring the truth to light, rather than burying it behind a shroud of secrecy.”
Duffy’s article goes on to address the pervasiveness of confidentiality requests from lawyers representing corporations and insurance companies, even in routine cases. Far too often, lawyers representing victims simply agree to these requests, rather than taking the time and effort to fight back.
In a call to action to the audience—other trial lawyers—Duffy writes, “We, as trial lawyers, must properly frame and present the issue for judicial resolution in each case where secrecy is unwarranted (which are many).” He details the legal framework Yarborough Applegate has successfully employed in several recent cases where judges around South Carolina have agreed and found that confidentiality was both unnecessary and improper.
Find Duffy’s full article in the Justice Bulletin here.