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Can I get the files from a 1978 grand jury are they available to the public?

I am hoping to locate any files or information relating to a Federal grand jury investigation that was carried out in 1978. Are these records stored at a particular library or depository, and are they available to the public?

A Ph.D. Candidate


Transcripts and files of federal grand jury investigations are archived. You'd have to contact the U.S. Attorney's Office in the district where the grand jury sat to find out where they archive their records.

The problem is, however, that all transcripts and other records of a grand jury's investigation are encompassed by the principles of grand jury secrecy set out in Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Neither the rule itself nor the common law background which it incorporates set any "half-life" for grand jury secrecy, that is, any time period after which secrecy no longer must be maintained. A couple of years ago, a scholar, aided by, if my recollection is correct, the American Historical Association, was able to gain access to portions (just portions) of the transcripts of the grand jury that investigated, and charged, Alger Hiss for espionage. The scholar argued that the transcripts were essential for his scholarly endeavor, a position the AHA supported.

As the court noted, though, at least some of the reasons for maintaining secrecy survive, even fifty or so years after the grand jury ended its investigation. For one thing, as the court pointed out, there is the issue of innocent parties who were investigated but not charged (or perhaps not so innocent parties who were investigated but not charged).

In that case, the court did grant the scholar access to specific portions of the transcripts because he was able to show need along with a valid purpose for gaining access, the lapse of time made maintaining secrecy less compelling, and because he was able to point to specific things he needed. The standard for gaining court-ordered access to grand jury material under Rule 6(e) is "particularized need," e.g., that the party seeking access can show that he or she needs access to specific parts of the transcript for specific reasons.

So, you might have a shot at it, though 1978 is relatively recent.

I wish you luck.




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