Cases

Open Government

Shawn Musgrave and Nasser Eledroos v. Clerk of the Superior Court for Criminal Business in Suffolk County, et al.

The ACLU of Massachusetts has joined Boston attorney Jeffrey Pyle of Prince Lobel Tye LLP in challenging excessive government secrecy surrounding Massachusetts prosecutors’ use of surveillance letters called “administrative subpoenas” by filing a complaint with the Suffolk Superior Court.

The complaint, filed June 27, 2017, seeks to unseal and make public all court files pertaining to a 2011 legal fight over a Suffolk County District Attorney administrative subpoena to Twitter. In December 2011, days after the Boston Police Department shut down the Occupy Boston encampment in Dewey Square, the Suffolk DA issued an administrative subpoena to Twitter, demanding subscriber information for accounts associated with certain user names, proper names, and hashtags like #BostonPD. After Twitter notified him that the government was seeking his account information, an anonymous Twitter user, “John Doe,” represented by the ACLU of Massachusetts, filed a motion to quash the administrative subpoena.

Despite significant public interest in the case, initially all court files were ordered impounded—and for the past five years, the Court has maintained impoundment of nearly all filings in the case.

The complaint was filed by Pyle on behalf of Shawn Musgrave, an investigative journalist who has written extensively about the use of social media as a law enforcement intelligence tool, but has been blocked from accessing court files—and by ACLU of Massachusetts on behalf of Nasser Eledroos, a technologist at the ACLU who is working on an administrative subpoena white paper and wishes to include these courts files as a case study. The suit asks the Court to locate and unseal all materials in the Twitter subpoena case.

Photo by #WOCinTechChat

@ACLU_Mass