ACLU of RI Files Brief in Support of Release of 38 Studios Grand Jury Records

Posted: Apr, 12, 2017

The ACLU of Rhode Island today filed a "friend of the court" brief in R.I. Superior Court in support of Governor Gina Raimondo's petition to have the court release the grand jury records of the 38 Studios investigation.

While acknowledging that grand jury records should ordinarily be protected from disclosure, the ACLU'S brief, filed by Roger Williams University School of Law Professors Jared Goldstein and Andrew Horwitz, argues that the 38 Studios investigation "presents a truly exceptional circumstance that justifies disclosure."

The brief explains:

"Unlike a typical grand jury investigation involving allegations of private crime by private individuals, the investigation of 38 Studios addressed a matter of public policy of extraordinary importance that involved the decision by the state to invest $75 million in public funds. In a well-functioning democracy, the people have a need to know how the state decides to spend public funds, and this need vastly outweighs any minimal interests in secrecy present here."

The brief also responds to various arguments made by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, who has objected to release of the records. The AG brief seeks to distinguish some of the cases cited by the Governor where grand jury records were released by noting that disclosure occurred after the witnesses were dead. However, the ACLU brief argues:

"Rhode Islanders need to understand today what went wrong with 38 Studios so that they can properly oversee state government, prevent future abuses, and avoid a recurrence of the mistakes that were recently made. It is not enough that our grandchildren may someday understand what happened. For representative democracy to work, Rhode Islanders need to know now what led public officials to make crucial decisions on how to spend the state’s money."

ACLU volunteer attorney Goldstein said today, "This case is about preventing misuse of government power. The people of Rhode Island can only stop the State from abusing power if they know how disasters like 38 Studios happened." ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown added: "Many questions still swirl around the 38 Studios fiasco. The grand jury documents may not answer all of them, but their release will help bring some finality to this unfortunate chapter in Rhode Island’s history."

A copy of the brief is available here.