Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Holds that Rape Shield Law Does Not Preclude Public Access to Search Warrant Affidavit

In the context of a public access issue of the first impression, the Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") of Massachusetts -- the Commonwealth's highest court -- recently reaffirmed that search warrant materials are presumptively public after the search warrant return has been filed in the issuing court. Commonwealth v. George W. Prescott Publishing Co., LLC, 463 Mass. 259 (Aug. 23, 2012).

The SJC held that the Massachusetts rape shield law, which imposes confidentiality on police reports of rape and sexual assault, does not encompass search warrant affidavits or other judicial records pertaining to such charges. The SJC also upheld the lower court's finding that the defendant had failed to establish good cause for continues impoundment of the search warrant affidavit, and that disclosure would not jeopardize the defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial.

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