A federal judge for the District of Columbia ruled Monday to unseal 11 cases related to independent counsel Ken Starr’s investigation into the relationship between former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in 1998.
District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling was a response to CNN’s Feb. 9 request to make the records available publicly.
“While the continued secrecy of judicial opinions regarding grand jury matters is necessary to protect the integrity of an ongoing investigation, that need for secrecy decreases once the investigation ends and continues to diminish over time,” Howell wrote Monday. “The public has an overarching interest in the accessibility of judicial opinions.”
Court documents regarding the Starr investigation have remained sealed at the courthouse for the past two decades, although some of the information was available publicly in the Congressional Record and through Starr’s report to Congress in 1998.
Howell is overseeing proceedings related to the grand jury by Mueller.
The records in question involve cases related to whether authorities could force the White House to hand over Clinton’s meeting and phone records and whether he would have to testify before a grand jury.
Another case involves Clinton’s lawyer and private investigator Terry Lenzner, who had investigated the women who accused the former president of sexual misconduct and tried to keep his records secret.
None of the documents requested have been made public before, including the judge’s opinion.
There will be redactions in the unsealed documents, the judge wrote. The names of witnesses who appeared before the grand jury and grand jury testimony will remain secret. Private details about Lenzner will also stay sealed.
The Justice Department asked Howell to keep several of the documents sealed, citing the court didn’t have the power to make them public.
According to the judge, Clinton and others involved are not opposed to opening the files to the public.
The Justice Department has until Thursday to file an appeal, which means the documents won’t be available in the court’s online database until after that time.