Both government prosecutors and Maxwell’s lawyers asked for redactions because of concerns that certain information was too “sensitive or confidential,” U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, an Obama nominee, wrote in a court order on March 18.
Nathan acquiesced to the redactions both parties requested, finding that the proposals mainly satisfied a three-part test articulated by a different court in 2006.
“Under this test, the Court must: (i) determine whether the documents in question are ‘judicial documents;’ (ii) assess the weight of the common law presumption of access to the materials; and (iii) balance competing considerations against the presumption of access. ‘Such countervailing factors include but are not limited to ‘the danger of impairing law enforcement or judicial efficiency’ and ‘the privacy interests of those resisting disclosure,'” she wrote.
The document parties sought to redact is a government brief in opposition to Maxell’s pre-trial motions. It is a judicial document, the judge said, turning to whether the requests were “narrowly tailored to serve substantial interests” to overcome the presumption of access.
Prosecutors argued the redactions they wanted were necessary to protect the integrity of an ongoing criminal investigation, as well as third parties’ personal privacy interests. Those arguments are legitimate, according to Nathan. For example, one redaction requested is the name of a third party.
Portions of the brief that Maxwell’s representatives wanted to shield from public view “concern privacy interests and their disclosure would merely serve to cater to a ‘craving for that which is sensational and impure,'” the judge wrote, adding: “The Court thus concludes that such redactions are justified.”
At the same time, Nathan sided with the defendant’s objections to some of the government’s proposed redactions, ruling prosecutors didn’t advance a conclusory basis as to why its investigation would be imperiled by the disclosure. She also denied the government’s request to put an entire exhibit under seal, because portions of it are public record.
The government was ordered to supply the brief with outlined redactions by March 22 or file a letter with the court in an attempt to justify more redactions. The parties also must meet by that date and discuss proposed redactions.
Maxwell, 59, was charged in July 2020 with sex crimes, including enticing a minor to travel to engage in criminal sexual activity and transporting a minor with the same intent. She is being held in jail in New York City.
Epstein, 66, was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges when he killed himself in federal prison in 2019.