New caselaw - right of access to defendant's dossier for financial aid

[JURIST] In re: Boston Herald [opinion] (February 25, US 1st Circuit Court of Appeals [official website]). A panel of the Court ruled 2-1 that there is no right of access under either the First Amendment or the common law to documents submitted by a criminal defendant to show financial eligibility for government funding for a portion of his attorneys' fees and legal expenses under the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), 18 U.S.C. § 3006A (2000): "No federal court of appeals, to our knowledge, has considered whether there is a right of access to the narrow category of documents at issue here.... A constitutionally-based right of access to otherwise private personal financial data of one's own and one's family imposes a high price on the exercise of one's constitutional right to obtain counsel if in financial need. Our system of justice cherishes "the principle that defendants are not to be avoidably discriminated against because of their indigency." Holden v. United States, 393 F.2d 276, 278 (1st Cir. 1968). But a strict disclosure requirement could well discourage eligible defendants from availing themselves of their right to counsel by forcing them to choose between privacy and CJA assistance -- a choice that other defendants do not face."

 

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