English and American common law have long recognized the public's right of access to judicial records. The United States Supreme Court has acknowledged the importance of this right but has failed to set clear standards for lower courts to follow in evaluating right-of-access claims. This Note explores the disagreement among the federal courts of appeals regarding the appropriate scope of review in right-of-access cases and the force of the presumption in favor of access. This Note argues that federal appellate courts should not limit review to abuse of discretion, but should evaluate the balancing the lower court performed and determine if the lower court appropriately weighed the competing interests in making its decision. This Note concludes that the presumption in favor of access should yield more readily to constitutional concerns than to administrative concerns. Reasonable constitutional concerns would therefore trump the common-law right of access, whereas administrative concerns must be compelling to overcome the presumption favoring access.
Melissa B. Coffey, Administrative Inconvenience and the Media's Right to Copy Judicial Records, 44 B.C.L. Rev. 1263 (2003), http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol44/iss4/13