A U.S. judge has sided with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and ordered the sealing of a Chinese scientist’s name, even though the name was made public by the NIH in 2020.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Anderson on July 22 ordered documents listing the name placed under seal, granting a motion by the NIH.
The documents had been released by the NIH to Empower Oversight, the plaintiff in the case.
Anderson said he found that the “targeted and limited sealing” was “the least drastic alternative available” and that First Amendment presumptions in favor of public access to records were outweighed for reasons set forth in the NIH’s filings.
Empower Oversight responded in a motion on July 27, asserting that the judge entered his order too soon.
“The order was issued before Empower Oversight timely filed its opposition to NIH’s motion to seal,” plaintiffs said in the filing.
The nonprofit noted that it had seven days to respond to the NIH’s July 15 motion, but that Anderson entered the order before that period of time elapsed.
Opposition to the motion was filed on July 22. But Anderson did not consider the opposition because his order was entered five minutes earlier, according to the court docket.
Anderson’s chambers referred a request for comment to the clerk’s office for the U.S. courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. The clerk’s office said it would only respond to inquiries sent by mail.
Empower Oversight asked the judge to set aside the order and ultimately reject the government’s motion.
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