SSHHZ & Colleagues’ Lawsuit Leads to Release of Long-Sealed Testimony in Roman Polanski Case
July 18, 2022: Today several media outlets released testimony from the criminal trial of Roman Polanski in which the prosecutor in the case extensively discussed alleged misconduct in the case, including by the judge, whom the prosecutor sought to disqualify. The transcripts had remained sealed from public review for twelve years despite numerous prior attempts and motions to unseal them.
Paul Hoffman and John Washington of SSHHZ, Susan E. Seager at the UC Irvine Press Freedom Project, and Gary Bostwick of Bostwick Law filed last year to unseal the documents, on behalf of journalists and historians Sam Wasson and William Rempel, ultimately appealing the matter to the California Court of Appeal.
DA Gascón, like his predecessors, opposed the public’s right to review such material throughout the past year and during this appeal, arguing that the public has no constitutional right to review such sworn allegations of judicial misconduct. After we filed our brief, once the Court of Appeal ordered a further explanation of how these documents could be sealed from the public, the District Attorney’s office abandoned its arguments and ceded the appeal.
The Court of Appeal then ordered the superior court to unseal the transcripts and public reporting on them began today.
We are extremely pleased with the Court of Appeals’ order and that the District Attorney has finally recognized the public’s right to know what prosecutors and judges do in our courts. Sam Wasson and William Rempel had this to say:
“Over the years, this long-suppressed document has contributed to considerable legal confusion and conflicting assumptions about the court’s conduct. As journalists and historians we hope this ruling finally helps to clarify the public record.”
Without Mr. Wasson and Rempel’s perseverance and dedication to press freedom and their litigation, we do not believe the documents may have ever been unsealed. We hope that because of this case, the DA will be quicker to recognize the public’s right of access next time, rather than fight the journalists and historians who assert it.