Legal Alert

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

January 30, 2018

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.

Judge Cadish's ruling follows a decision made by a federal court earlier this month, which unsealed some 350 pages of federal warrant materials related to the Las Vegas shooting. Ballard Spahr represented the media group in this action.

The news media coalition is represented by Joel E. Tasca, Steven Zansberg, and Justin A. Shiroff of Ballard Spahr.

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr's Media and Entertainment Law Group are dedicated to supporting the free press and the First Amendment rights of groups and individuals. The Group helps clients navigate challenging media law issues across all platforms and industries.

Copyright © 2018 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
(No claim to original U.S. government material.)

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