Does the Court Have the Authority to Disclose the Minutes and Documents of Jury's Investigation to the Public ?

In Matter of Carey v. State of New York (68 AD2d 220), then-Governor Carey sought to release excerpts from the Grand Jury investigation into the Attica uprising. Doubt had been cast on the integrity of the various prosecutions and the claimed laudable purpose for publication was to provide the public with more information about the criminal justice system, the press, and police response to the riot. Nonetheless, the Fourth Department refused to permit disclosure of the minutes because the reputations of unindicted individuals could be harmed, the nature of the disclosure "far exceed[ed] anything previously authorized by any court," and the public interest was not great enough to justify disclosure (68 AD2d at 228-230). Interestingly, the Fourth Department later allowed disclosure of these documents to (1) the Division of State Police for purposes of departmental discipline, and (2) litigants in the civil lawsuits related to the Attica uprising (see, Matter of Scotti, 53 AD2d 282; Jones v. State of New York, 79 AD2d 273). In Matter of Grand Jury Investigation (139 Misc 2d 282), the court refused a District Attorney's request to publish the Grand Jury minutes in a matter of heightened public interest. There, as in Carey, unindicted individuals were the subject of investigation and their interests had to be protected by refusing the disclosure request. In contrast to Grand Jury Investigation and Carey is the more recent case of People v. Cipolla (184 Misc 2d 880), which granted a newspaper's application for disclosure of the Grand Jury minutes. There, county officials had been sued civilly in Federal court on the basis that they had caused falsified documents to be presented to the Grand Jury and at the trial that resulted in the acquittal of the criminal defendants. These public officials successfully argued that they needed the Grand Jury minutes to defend against the Federal action. When the local publishing company also moved for disclosure, the court granted the release, reasoning that the Grand Jury record could "reach the public via the Federal courts no matter what happens here" (at 882), and the integrity of the Grand Jury and county government was called into question, which was a matter of serious public concern.