University of Miami Law Review


Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) enumerates the exceptions under which courts may disclose otherwise secret grand jury materials. Until recently, long-standing Eleventh Circuit precedent allowed district courts in its jurisdiction to disclose grand jury records based on an extratextual reading of Rule 6(e) that relied on district courts’ “inherent authority” to disclose grand jury materials. In March of 2020, the Eleventh Circuit moved away from this precedent and held that district courts lack the inherent authority to authorize the disclosure of grand jury records outside of the limited exceptions set forth in Rule 6(e). Although the Eleventh Circuit moved away from its broad interpretation of Rule 6(e)’s grant of authority to release grand jury materials, many of its sister circuits are steadfast in their adoption of the “inherent authority” approach to the disclosure of grand jury materials. The Supreme Court had the opportunity to squarely consider this issue, and it chose not to— but on January 21, 2020, the Court expressly stated that whether district courts may exercise their inherent authority to release grand jury materials outside the enumerated exceptions found in Rule 6(e) is an important question. Ultimately, the resolution of the circuit split examined by this Article lies in the hands of the Advisory Committee on the Criminal Rules.

Accordingly, this Article takes the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in United States v. Pitch one step further and, following Judge Adalberto Jordan’s lead, advocates that district courts should be authorized to order the disclosure of grand jury materials of particular historical significance. Under the current regime, they cannot. With that understanding, this Article argues that the Advisory Committee on the Criminal Rules should recommend an amendment to Rule 6(e) that would allow for disclosure of grand jury documents of historical significance under certain circumstances. This Article concludes by providing proposed language that could serve as a framework through which the Advisory Commit- tee on the Criminal Rules could prevent district courts from creating exceptions outside Rule 6(e) while simultaneously allowing the disclosure of grand jury materials in historically significant cases and respecting the role grand jury secrecy has played in American jurisprudence.