When reading about T.J Miller, I noticed one sentence

Student conduct proceedings were held, the results of which are sealed (...)

What is the legal framework for such "sealing" of information? Can it be "un-sealed"? (in case an investigation was to be performed)

Note: the Wikipedia article is just an example, I am not interested in that particular case but in the US concept of "sealing" some documents (legally speaking)


"Sealing" means ending access to the records of a proceeding, usually, in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding. This generally means that the records can't be released without a court order.

The most common circumstance in which records are sealed is under state statutes which are designed to have the practical effect of eliminating the collateral effects of a past criminal conviction, in a manner similar to a pardon issued after a sentence of the crime has been fully served.

  • Correct. I'd add that the Wikipedia article is probably being imprecise in saying these records are "sealed," for two reasons. First, as @ohwileke said, that term generally just refers to court records, where these are educational records. Second, sealing is the process of making public records no longer public. Court records are generally publicly available, and sealing is the mechanism by which they are made confidential. Educational records like those in T.J. Miller's case are generally confidential from their creation, so there's nothing to be sealed. – bdb484 Mar 12 at 15:21
  • Thank you. Does that mean that anyone can decide that some of the public records they maintain are now sealed, and will from now be available only through a court order? Or what can be sealed in which conditions is clearly defined? – WoJ Mar 12 at 17:22
  • 1
    There are pretty clear procedures and standards for when documents can be sealed, although since they are often uncontested there can be wiggle room. – ohwilleke Mar 12 at 19:13
  • That's right. As a legal matter, a court is not permitted to seal materials unless they demonstrate that sealing would be consistent with both the common-law right of access to records, and the First Amendment right of access. Practically speaking, though, there's no one watching 99 percent of court cases, so many, many things get sealed inappropriately. RCFP has good explanation of both the common law and First Amendment tests: rcfp.org/open-courts-compendium/2nd-circuit – bdb484 Mar 12 at 21:33
  • But non-court records would go through a totally different analysis. For instance, if you ran a restaurant that was cited for a rat infestation, the government's records about the citation would probably be public record, and there would probably not be any meaningful opportunity for you to have that record sealed. – bdb484 Mar 12 at 21:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.