A rule adopted by the Tennessee Supreme Court Jan. 6 will make it harder for parties to shroud civil case records in secrecy, even in certain cases that are settled out of court, according to The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
New Rule 1A of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure says courts records are presumed open and may be sealed only in limited circumstances. Under the rule, the person seeking to block access to court records must show "a specific, serious and substantial interest" that clearly outweighs both the presumption of openness, and any likely adverse impact that sealing will have on public health or safety. In addition, there must be no less restrictive method besides sealing that will "adequately and effectively protect" the interest asserted.
According to the court's announcement, the rule says that it is "the public policy of this state that the public interests are best served by open courts and an independent judiciary."