Yesterday, it seems (but just up on PACER this morning), Judge Biggers issued an order allowing the limited unsealing of government affidavits and applications “for a search warrant and orders authorizing the interception of wire communications and a disc containing intercepted conversations. . . .” While such language wasn’t totally Greek to us (more like French — a language we speak quite badly), we still thought it prudent to check in with our trusty criminal procedure sources on this.
Here’s the deal. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 basically requires that the government turn over certain evidence to a defendant prior to trial. The order suggests that the government asked the court to unseal evidence so that it can turn it over to the defendants. Apparently, even if the government made the initial request to seal documents, it still has to ask the court to unseal them. The upshot of all this? “It’s clear that the government has requested at least one search warrant and got an order authorizing a wiretap of one or more phones,” says Ropes & Gray’s Michael McGovern.
WSJ Law Blog