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The False Claims Act's Seal Provisions Upheld


The False Claims Act contains seal provisions that require every qui tam complaint to be filed under seal for a 60-day period, which is often extended many times over, to give the Department of Justice an opportunity to investigate the allegations and intervene, if it chooses. In ACLU v. Holder (Mar. 28, 2011,, the Fourth Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, rejected arguments that these provisions violate the public’s First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings or infringe the authority of federal courts to decide whether a particular complaint should be unsealed in violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers clause, noting that the seal provisions are narrowly tailored because, inter alia, relators are precluded only from publicly discussing the filing of the suit and not from disclosing the existence of the fraud.

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