New Jersey appellate court opens court records

The New Jersey Superior Court has determined that public access to court proceedings and court records supercedes any agreement by the litigants to keep records confidential. The trial court judge claimed that opening the court records could injure the parties’ reputations, but the appellate court disagreed saying, openness trumpted any contractual agreement.

Intervenors American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., North Jersey Media Group, Inc., and Bloomberg News L.P. (the media) challenge the Law Division’s August 7, 2003 order that sealed virtually all pleadings and documents filed with the court and barred the public from access to the court proceedings based upon confidentiality agreements among private parties. We conclude that the parties’ contractual agreements do not outweigh the presumption of openness that applies to court proceedings and filed documents. Accordingly, we reverse and vacate the sealing orders.

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