Mastering The Art Of Redaction. Or Not.
Adam Liptak at the New York Times reports that:
About eight pages of a 51-page government brief filed in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday were electronically blacked out to protect what prosecutors said was sensitive material concerning a grand jury’s investigation into steroid use in baseball. But the secret passages can be viewed by simply pasting the document into a word processing program.
Forget the substance of this case. And I assume that the material was supposed to be blacked out. (The general counsel for Hearst newspapers, an opposing party, elegantly suggested this might have been an intentional leak, saying “it is our hope that the government did not leak the document”. Nice!) I can’t help but wonder who screwed up (lawyer, paralegal, or secretary) and whether any heads will roll.
Speaking as a former legal assistant at Heller, Ehrman in San Francisco, and junior associate at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York (roughly equivalent positions, given that SF paralegals routinely conducted cite-checks, a task left to junior associates in NY), I can only imagine the horror transpiring at DOJ. The low level employees responsible for these redactions no doubt live in daily dread of a – shall we say it? – fuck up of this magnitude. The good news is that this incident will be a helpful training vehicle for law firms across the country. The bad news is that the median blood pressure of paralegals and junior associates just went up a notch.
Meanwhile, at this very moment, somebody is holding his or her head very low. He or she may already be toting a pink slip. Given our small world, I’ll bet that there’s no more than one degree of separation between Co-Op readers and this sorry soul. If you know him or her, tell him my heart goes out. Thank the lord it wasn’t me.