Federal Appeals Court Says Plea Agreements Should Be Open

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CINCINNATI (AP) – A Cincinnati-based federal appeals court says plea agreements should be open records under the First Amendment unless there is some overriding interest in closing them.

A three-judge panel from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals makes that statement in a ruling affirming a man’s 2014 sentencing on cocaine distribution-related charges.

While upholding the sentences, the judges sent the case back to U.S. district court in Akron to address its order on allowing public access to the defendant’s plea agreement.

The opinion written by Judge Richard Allen Griffin stated that the public has a constitutional right to access plea agreements, and that they “play a central role in our criminal justice system.” He wrote that courts need to show that closure is essential for higher values and is narrowly tailored.