Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Impoundment in Criminal Cases

In Globe Newspaper Co., Inc, Petitioner decided yesterday, the SJC clarified procedures for impoundment in criminal cases. This case involved the impoundment of an inquest report. MGL c. 38, § 10  makes specific provision for the impoundment of inquest transcripts, but is silent on inquest reports, and so the court provided guidance on the impoundment of inquest reports specifically, and also on impoundment in criminal cases in general, saying in part:

"We declare under the common law, however, a rule that an inquest report shall be impounded until the transcript presumptively becomes a public document under G.L. c. 38, § 10."
To give all interested parties an opportunity to respond before a report or transcript is no longer impounded, "we exercise our superintendence authority to require the extended impoundment of the inquest transcript and report for a period of ten calendar days after the filing of the required notice or certificate by a district attorney under § 10. At the conclusion of this ten-day period, the report or transcript shall be available for public inspection in the absence of an impoundment order or a judicial order pending adjudication of a motion to impound."
"In criminal cases, we have declared that the "[p]ractice regarding orders of impoundment entered in criminal proceedings should hew as closely as possible to the protocol established by the uniform rules," and require that appellate review of impoundment orders conform to the uniform rules... We conclude that in the future the practice regarding orders impounding or refusing to impound an inquest report or transcript should also "hew as closely as possible to the protocol established by the uniform rules [of Impoundment Procedure]," and that, as in the uniform rules, such orders may be appealed to a single justice of the Appeals Court."