Judges: Too many civil cases kept secret

September 13, 2011 - 2:55 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal judges who set the rules for U.S. courts say too many civil lawsuits are being kept from public view and are urging their colleagues to seal cases only in extraordinary circumstances.

Chief Judge David Sentelle of the federal appeals court in Washington said the Judicial Conference voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a policy aimed at limiting the number of sealed civil cases. Sentelle said judges "should not do something in secret" without compelling reasons.

A study of civil cases filed in 2006 found that 576 out of 245,326 cases were sealed.

Sentelle said the 26 judges who form the policy-making Judicial Conference believe too many cases are being sealed in their entirety. Judges should instead try to shield individual documents or black out information in a file.