NBC Universal, on behalf of its affiliate station WNBC-TV, and The New York Times Co. have asked to intervene in a bankruptcy proceeding concerning investors in Bernard Madoff's company in order to gain access to key court documents.
The news organizations filed their motion to intervene in Picard v. Katz “for the limited purpose of enforcing the public’s right of access to the sealed complaint already filed with the Court and to future pleadings yet to be filed.” The complaint was filed by the Madoff trustees against investors with alleged ownership interests in the New York Mets.
The intervention request asserted that the public has a right to review the sealed court documents. “Under ordinary application of the statutory, constitutional and common law rules generally mandating openness of court proceedings and filings, the public should have presumptive access to the Trustee’s complaint in this proceeding regardless of the particular newsworthiness or public interest attached to this case," the request said.
The news organizations' filing asserts that the Mets' ownership “recently received enormous public financial support to build a lavish new stadium, during the same time period in which Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme of many years was in its final tottering phase." Accordingly, the news organizations argued that the taxpayers have the right to know of the allegations that are in the complaint.
The Madoff trustees' stated rationale for filing the complaint under seal “was to minimize potential disturbance of [Madoff's] ongoing settlement discussions with the defendants,” the news organization's motion states. Their motion asserted that this rationale has “no legal footing whatsoever.”
“Given the public significance of this adversary proceeding, both the pleadings and all other aspects of it should be open to public scrutiny to the fullest extent possible,” the news organizations argued.
A response to the motion is due on Jan. 31 and a hearing is set for Feb. 9 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York City.