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Court finds documents should be available in influence case

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Court finds documents should be available in influence case 12/15/97 FLORIDA--In mid-November, eighteen months after the Broward Daily Business Review…

Court finds documents should be available in influence case

12/15/97

FLORIDA–In mid-November, eighteen months after the Broward Daily Business Review moved to unseal a pretrial court document filed by the government in a fraud case, a federal judge in Miami held that the newspaper had a common law right of access to the document.

Although he declined to rule on the newspaper’s constitutional right, U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler noted that, if necessary, he would have ruled that the newspaper had a First Amendment right of access to the document, which was a response to a defense motion to dismiss the indictment.

The document was originally filed under seal in 1994, briefly unsealed, then resealed on unopposed motions by the government. When the Daily Business Review moved early last year to unseal the document, the government and counsel for a local attorney opposed it, arguing that the document contained “scandalous” information about “innocent third parties.”

Specifically, the document included an allegation that a local attorney tried to impermissibly influence a prosecutor who was supervising the Sunrise Savings and Loan fraud case by writing a letter in support of her application for a federal judgeship.

Although Hoeveler expressed concern about the potential harm to the attorney’s reputation, he rejected both the privacy argument and an agreement between the government and the attorney that would have allowed a redacted version of the document to be disclosed.

“This case does not present the nature of interests that have been found to be worthy of protection by the court through denial of access to judicial records,” Hoeveler wrote. (U.S. v. Treadwell; Media Counsel: Richard Ovelman, Miami)