The vindictive grand jury investigation of pain-relief advocate Siobhan Reynolds.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Dec. 21 2010 4:00 PM

The Worst Kind of Ham Sandwich

The vindictive grand jury investigation of pain-relief advocate Siobhan Reynolds.

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Reynolds had to get special permission just to share information about her case with the Institute for Justice and the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine, my employer). When the organizations submitted an amicus brief on her behalf, that brief was also sealed, even though it's based on publicly available information. New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak was able to read a portion of the sealed 10th Circuit ruling on the sealing of the Reason and Institute for Justice briefs. In November, Liptak reported that the court said one of its reasons for keeping the brief secret was to keep IJ and the Reason Foundation from discussing Reynolds' pain advocacy agenda in public.

That's an astonishing thing to read in a federal appeals court opinion. All of the information in the brief is publicly available. Yet the courts are preventing Reynolds and these organizations from releasing the briefs or the court rulings, at least in part to stifle public discussion about Reynolds' criticism of government policy.

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Reynolds  appealed the 10th Circuit rulings on both the subpoena and the seal to the Supreme Court, but it declined to take the case. That means Treadway's deployment of a grand jury investigation to silence Reynolds will stand. The demands of the subpoena have broken the Pain Relief Network. Reynolds is shutting it down because she's out of money. Federal law allows criminal defendants who are acquitted to be reimbursed for their legal expenses. But Reynolds has been neither indicted nor cleared. There's no deadline for ending the grand jury investigation. Can this possibly be how the system is supposed to work?

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Radley Balko is a senior editor for Reason magazine.

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