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Appeals court upholds whistleblower secrecy law

A divided court of appeals for the 4th circuit has upheld the unconditional sealing of False Claims Act cases. Dissenting parties felt that the automatic application of a seal violated the First Amendment and the public’s right to access court proceedings.

Under the current laws, all FCA cases are placed under seal for 60 days to allow the government to decide whether or not to intervene. Many cases remain under seal for several months, although judicial review is required at the end of the 60-day period.

The majority opinion in the 2-1 vote upholding the current law agreed “that ‘sunlight’ and ‘openness’ are important values,” but held that justice is better served by “protecting the integrity of ongoing fraud investigations”. Judge James Dever III, of the majority opinion, pointed out that all FCA cases are eventually unsealed. “Thus, in every FCA case, the people will be able to see how the Executive and the Judiciary have fulfilled their constitutional and statutory roles.”

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