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In re In re Grand Jury Investigation

Citation: 25 ELR 21398
No. Nos. 94-6221, -6287, 59 F.3d 17/(2d Cir., 07/05/1995)

The court affirms a district court order directing the federal government to allow two state agencies access to documents they produced pursuant to grand jury subpoenas in the federal government's investigation of a company that allegedly violated environmental requirements while constructing a natural gas pipeline. Under two settlement agreements the company and the agencies entered into before the documents were subpoenaed, the agencies had agreed to allow the company to inspect the documents. The agencies, however, had turned over the requested materials to the grand jury without making copies. The court first holds that the company has standing to assert the agencies' rights to the subpoenaed documents. The agencies' sole interest in obtaining access to the documents is to enable them to comply with their contractual obligations of disclosure to the company. The agencies' own interests in this matter are inextricably linked with the company's, thus obviating any prudential concerns about the company's ability to assert these rights effectively. The court next rejects the federal government's argument that allowing the company to have preindictment access to the documents would improperly enable it to prepare against a grand jury investigation. Before the subpoena, the agencies freely consented to the company's inspection of the documents in question. Therefore, this case differs from those on which the government relies, in which parties that lacked an antecedent right of access sought to obtain access by invoking compulsory civil process. Also, the government has not shown how the company's access will impede or compromise the secrecy of the grand jury investigation. The court thus holds that the district court did not abuse its supervisory powers in ordering the government to allow the state agencies and the company access to the documents.

Counsel for Appellant
Sean Connelly
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Appellee
George H. Lowe
Bond, Schoeneck & King
One Lincoln Ctr., 18th Fl., Syracuse NY 13202
(315) 422-0121

Before Lumbard, Altimari and Mahoney, JJ.