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Measure Cages ‘Rat’ Web Site

Posted Jul 17, 2007 8:28 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A second federal court has taken steps to protect the identities of defendants who cooperate with authorities.

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania will no longer post sentencing and plea dockets to its Web site, making it more difficult to learn whether defendants agreed to cooperate, the Legal Intelligencer reports.

The move is a response to the Who's a Rat Web site, which was created by a disc jockey who says he was arrested on marijuana charges based on allegations by a paid informant. The site posts names of cooperating defendants and features a “rat of the week.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III told the legal newspaper that even sealed documents were a tip-off that a defendant was cooperating.

“Those documents will still be publicly available in the courthouse for anyone who wants to come here and see them--provided they are not under seal—but you will not be able to sit back in your armchair and gain access to them," he said.

The Southern District of Florida has taken similar action.

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