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L.A. court tackles O.J.’s constitutional end run

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Prior Restraints         Aug 17, 2000    

L.A. court tackles O.J.’s constitutional end run

  • An attempted sweep around the First Amendment was foiled after a judge refused to restrain the distribution of a television show about O.J. Simpson’s legal defense strategy in his criminal trial.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge refused on August 16 to allow O.J. Simpson to block the distribution of a miniseries concerning the defense of Simpson at his 1995 criminal trial.

Simpson had alleged in court papers that confidences he shared with his legal defense team were protected by a legal privilege against disclosure, a privilege that would be violated when television viewers watched the yet-uncompleted miniseries.

Simpson was seeking a temporary restraining order against Lawrence Schiller, who produced and directed “American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the Simpson Defense,” because of alleged irreparable harm that would result from Schiller’s distribution of the miniseries.

Schiller wrote the 1996 best-selling book of the same title; the screenplay for the miniseries was penned by Norman Mailer.

Superior Court Judge David Yaffe denied Simpson’s attempt at a temporary restraining order but did schedule a Sept. 6 hearing on Simpson’s motion for a preliminary injunction that would bar Schiller from further participation in the project. Yaffe also said that he would review Mailer’s script under seal, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Simpson has sued Schiller and Robert Kardashian, one of his former criminal attorneys, for breach of contract and fraud. According to the Los Angeles Times, Simpson’s attorney submitted eight sworn declarations in support of the motion, including statements from Simpson defense lawyers Barry Scheck, F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz, stating that they let Schiller interview them only after receiving promises that no confidential or privileged information would be printed without Simpson’s approval.

Simpson’s sworn statement states that Schiller reneged on a promise to permit him to approve the manuscript, according to the Times. “This action is about the avaricious disregard of the attorney-client relationship, and of promises of confidentiality, by an attorney and a writer,” the Los Angeles Times quoted the complaint as stating.

“The information contained in the miniseries has already been widely disseminated to the public by the publication of the Schiller book in 1996 and its release in paperback in 1997,” defense attorney Gary Bostwick told the Times. Bostwick said that a Simpson legal victory would serve as an unconstitutional prior restraint and that imposition of the restraining order would kill the show and lead to an $ 11.8-million loss for the network.

The book and miniseries purportedly reveal the perspective of the legal “dream team” that helped win a 1995 acquittal for Simpson on charges that he murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald L. Goldman in Los Angeles in 1994. Simpson later lost a civil wrongful death suit and was ordered to pay $ 33.5 million in damages.

Simpson claims he did not try and stop publication of the book published in 1996 because he was at the time involved in the wrongful death civil trials for the death of Ron Goldman.

According to a CBS spokeswoman, the miniseries — starring Ron Silver, Christopher Plummer and Ving Rhames as attorneys Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey and Johnnie Cochran, respectively — will finish filming by the end of August. There is no appearance by a Simpson character in the miniseries, according to the spokeswoman.

(Media Counsel: Gary Bostwick, Los Angeles) GK

© 2000 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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