In a case that's being closely watched by civil libertarians, journalists and the criminal defense bar, lawyers for convicted Colombian narcotics boss Fabio Ochoa have attacked his 2003 conviction partly on the grounds of federal court secrecy practices.
A key issue in last week's oral arguments before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta was the constitutionality of secret court dockets that federal judges in South Florida and Atlanta have used to hide the existence of some civil and criminal court cases.
Judge Rosemary Barkett expressed strong concerns about the use of secret dockets. She wanted to know how one of the potential witnesses for Ochoa, Nicholas Bergonzoli, came to be convicted, sentenced and imprisoned in total secrecy in U.S. District Court in Miami in 2002.
"Who authorized that?" asked Barkett, who led the three-judge panel that's considering Ochoa's appeal. "I've never heard of such a thing."