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Media Coalition Gains Access to Sealed Warrant Materials in Las Vegas Mass Shooting

A Las Vegas judge, at the urging of a coalition of news media organizations and over the objection of police, today ordered the release of sealed search warrant materials connected to the investigation of the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The warrants authorized the search and seizure of people, cars, computer hard drives, telephones, and other items found at the home of Stephen Paddock, whom police identified as the man who killed 58 people and injured 500 more at a crowded music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on October 1, 2017. Paddock committed suicide as police stormed his Vegas hotel room.

The news media group—American Broadcasting Companies, the Associated Press, Cable News Network, KSNV-TV, KTNV-TV, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and The Washington Post—argued that the public has a right to access the warrant materials under the First Amendment and Nevada common law. Police officials countered that because the investigation of the shooting is ongoing, the documents should remain sealed.

Clark County District Judge Elissa F. Cadish agreed with the media group that most of the records should be made public. She noted that there is still an ongoing investigation regarding one other individual connected with the shooting. The court concluded, however, that "the vast majority of the documents Petitioners seek to unseal do not contain any information that would compromise the ongoing investigation in any way nor present any danger to a private citizen."

Judge Cadish temporarily ordered the redaction of 13 isolated phrases to protect the investigation while satisfying the public's right of access. The court released nearly 200 pages of records after the hearing.

Copyright © by Ballard Spahr LLP


About this Author

Joel Tasca financial institutions lawyer,  consumer class action attorney Ballard Spahr

Joel E. Tasca has defended banks and other financial institutions in consumer class and individual actions for over twenty years. These cases have arisen out of residential mortgage loans, credit card accounts, and an array of other consumer financial services.  Many of these suits have been brought under federal consumer protection laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the Truth in Lending Act, and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, as well as under state unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices statutes....

Charles Tobin, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, Entertainment Media Litigation Attorney

Charles D. Tobin is a litigator, former journalist, and the Co-Practice Leader of Ballard Spahr's Media and Entertainment Law Group. He defends the media in libel and privacy lawsuits in state and federal trial and appellate courts throughout the country. He conducts prepublication content review and advises clients on subpoenas, access and privilege issues, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, copyright matters, and First Amendment rights.

Mr. Tobin also represents businesses in matters involving unfair competition, disparagement, and false advertising. He helps digital media clients respond to takedown requests, develop terms of use and privacy policies, and fend off subpoenas seeking the identities of anonymous posters. In addition, he advises media clients on the developing laws regulating drone use.

Steven Zansberg, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, Denver, Media and Intellectual Property Litigation Attorney

For more than two decades, Steven D. Zansberg has represented media companies, online publishers, and individuals in defending claims based on content, fighting subpoenas, and seeking access to government information and proceedings. He represented the national news media in connection with coverage of the Aurora theater shooting case, the Oklahoma City bombing trials, and the Kobe Bryant rape prosecution. He secured access to public records related to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey and the shooting at Columbine High School. Mr. Zansberg also litigates copyright and...