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Flynt v. Lombardi

Larry Flynt, an anti-death penalty advocate, moved to unseal court documents in two federal cases challenging Missouri’s death penalty protocol. In December 2013, the court denied the intervention motions because it concluded that Flynt had no more than a “generalized interest” in the subject matter. Flynt appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In March 2014, Public Citizen, on behalf of itself and the Missouri Press Association, filed an amicus brief urging the appeals court to reverse and permit Flynt’s intervention for the purpose of seeking to unseal court records. Public Citizen’s brief explained that the public right of access to court records is vital to ensure a transparent judiciary and public oversight of court proceedings. Because that interest is shared by all members of the public, no particular interest in the documents should be required to intervene and seek access to them. Additionally, without the intervention of third parties like Flynt, Public Citizen and members of the press, overbroad sealing orders in many cases would never be challenged at all. In April 2015, the Eighth Circuit reversed the denial of intervention, as Public Citizen urged.