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Sixth Circuit Orders Ruling On Unsealing of Sealed Criminal Case

On February 5, 2009, the Sixth Circuit ordered a district court to rule on a crime victim's motion to unseal a sealed criminal case.

The criminal case was sealed on August 28, 2008. The victim, filed a motion to unseal pursuant to the Crime Victim's Rights Act (CVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3771(d)(3). The Act requires the district court to "take up and decide any motion asserting a victim's right forthwith." However, the district court failed to rule on the motion for at least three months. The victim filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Sixth Circuit seeking to enforce his CVRA rights. The CVRA required a ruling on the petition within 72 hours.

The Sixth Circuit held that "the failure of district court to rule on the motion for a three-month period can be construed as an effective denial of rights under the CVRA" so that the issue was properly before the court even thought he district court had not denied the motion. It then held that Simons had "demonstrated a clear and indisputable right to a prompt ruling on the motion to unseal so that he will be in a position to asset whatever rights he has under the CVRA." Therefore, the petition for a writ of mandamus was granted and the district court was directed to rule on the motion within 14 days. One judge dissented, saying that they should have just ordered the records unsealed as there was no legitimate justification for sealing them in the first place. See: In re Simons, F.3d ___ (6th Cir. 2009) (No. 09-31109).

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Related legal case

In re Simons