Five days before Rafael Mejia and Homes Rios’s drug trial was to begin, the Justice Department, pursuant to the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), filed an ex parte, in camera motion with the trial court seeking to prevent disclosure of certain classified information during discovery. The trial court granted the motion, determining that the information was not subject to discovery and issuing a sealed protective order. On appeal, the panel affirmed the trial court under the Yunis standard: the information was relevant, the assertion of privilege was at least colorable, and the information was not helpful or beneficial to the accused.
The panel rejected Mejia’s argument that judicial determinations regarding disclosure of classified information under CIPA must be made with the participation of defendants and their counsel. While Garland acknowledged that this results in a “difficult [predicament]” for the defense, he found that the relevant CIPA provision authorizes courts to conduct such ex parte proceedings, and cited legislative history stating that an adversarial hearing would subvert the purpose of the privilege. Garland also rejected the claim that the lower court’s proceedings violated the defendants’ confrontation right on the ground that this is a trial right, not a right to pretrial discovery.