ACLU wants public access to FCI Dublin class action suit

A legal advocacy group called Public Justice and the ACLU of Northern California filed a motion on Wednesday to unseal court records and preserve public access to hearings in the class action lawsuit that survivors of sexual assault at FCI Dublin brought against the federal Bureau of Prisons. 

Many of the court records thus far have been public, which have exposed years of sexual abuse and retaliation at the now-shuttered FCI Dublin.

Yet, with little explanation, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted several motions to seal records in the case – and many of the motions themselves are under seal – leaving the public and the press in the dark, the ACLU and Public Justice stated in a news release. 

The judge allowed the documents to be sealed shortly after the prison shut down in April and 605 women were transferred to prisons around the country.

Shortly after the prison closed, Rogers held a series of closed hearings to address what happened. 

These hearings took place without prior notice, and in many instances, the docket does not reflect that they even occurred, the ACLU and Public Justice noted.

KTVU tried to attend one of the first such hearings on the day FCI Dublin closed and was told to leave the Zoom hearing. 

"The First Amendment protects the right of public access to court records and judicial proceedings," said Jackie Aranda Osorno, senior attorney at Public Justice. "This right is a fundamental check on what the government does in our name and serves to ensure public confidence in our legal system."

While the Bureau of Prisons has argued that some court records should be sealed to protect the "safety and security" of FCI Dublin, the two agencies argued that these concerns are irrelevant now that the prison has closed. 

Unless there is a compelling reason to maintain secrecy, the court should make the previously sealed documents available to the public immediately, both organizations argued. 

The motion asks the court to unseal records in California Coalition for Women Prisoners v. United States of America Federal Bureau of Prisons when there is no compelling reason to keep them secret; explain the basis for keeping any remaining records sealed; issue minute orders for any closed hearings; and provide advance notice of closed proceedings in the future so that interested parties have an opportunity to object. The motion does not seek to disclose the names of sexual assault survivors or invade their privacy.

In August 2023, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and eight women formerly incarcerated at FCI Dublin filed California Coalition for Women Prisoners v. United States of America Federal Bureau of Prisons alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment, due process, and federal law.