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Enron's attempt to keep corporate documents confidential fails again

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Enron’s attempt to keep corporate documents confidential fails again

  • Federal judge ordered production of document log should be disclosed to the media on a “rolling basis.”

April 9, 2003 — A Houston federal judge rejected Enron’s latest attempt to keep categories of corporate documents confidential March 28.

Last year, federal judge Melinda Harmon rejected Enron’s request for a blanket protective order preventing parties from disclosing discovery documents to the public. Enron returned to the court in January with a new request to prevent access to four categories of documents, including personnel files, internal documents containing analysis of litigation or settlement matters, documents pertaining to the sale or attempted sale of its assets; and “competitively sensitive” information.

In rejecting Enron’s second attempt to keep discovery documents confidential, Harmon reasoned that the four categories were so broad and vague that they resulted in an impermissible blanket protective order.

Harmon ordered that Enron must submit a document log and designate nonconfidential documents on a “rolling basis.” Harmon’s order does not provide the media direct access to nonconfidential documents. However, if discovery documents are deemed nonconfidential, the parties are free to disclose these documents to the public.

In addition, the document log is to be presented to counsel for the media intervenors, which include Dow Jones & Co., Inc., The New York Times Co., The Washington Post, USA Today, The Houston Chronicle, ABC and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, who may challenge any documents designated as confidential.

“I am extremely pleased with Judge Harmon’s decision,” said Peter D. Kennedy, counsel for the media intervenors. “I think that the order requiring a ‘rolling production’ of a privilege log to the media represents a nearly unprecedented level of court-ordered access to the internal workings of the discovery process in civil litigation.”

(In re Enron Corp. Securities Litigation: Media Counsel: Peter D. Kennedy, George & Donaldson, LLP, Austin, Texas) ST

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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