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Media not entitled to sealed baseball records after settlement

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    NMU         MINNESOTA         Freedom of Information         Jul 11, 2002    

Media not entitled to sealed baseball records after settlement

  • A Minneapolis judge denied access to sealed financial records and memos, rejecting journalists’ claims that such documents should be open after a public agency obtains the documents.

A Minneapolis judge ruled July 10 that the media were not entitled to confidential financial records and memos from a now-settled case involving the Minnesota Twins, Major League Baseball and the owners of the Metrodome.

Hennepin County District Judge Harry Crump heard arguments at a June 26 hearing over whether 9,000 records sealed during the course of a lawsuit should be open to the public under the state’s Data Practices Act. He held that the media did not have the right to documents produced in the pretrial processes and ordered that the files be destroyed by the commission, which had the files as a part of discovery, or returned to the Twins.

Debate arose when the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which owns the Metrodome baseball stadium in Minneapolis, sued the Twins and Major League Baseball after baseball officials voted Nov. 6 to fold two unnamed baseball teams. Commissioners believed the Twins was one of the two teams to be eliminated and sued in an attempt to keep them at the Metrodome through the 2003 season.

In the midst of negotiations, the Twins and Major League Baseball in April asked the court to place a protective order on the 9,000 documents that they had given to the commission. Neither party gave any reason for sealing the records. The case was settled on June 6 after Major League Baseball agreed to let the Twins stay.

After the settlement, three news organizations requested the documents. But due to the protective order on the records, the commission denied the request. On June 10, the Twins asked the commission to return the records. Facing conflicting demands on the records, the commission asked the court to resolve the matter.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Associated Press and KARE-TV, a local news station, filed a lawsuit on June 19 against the commission to gain access to the records.

At the June 26 hearing, the news organizations argued that the Twins and Major League Baseball should justify why the records need to be confidential or else release the records. The news organizations also argued that because the records came into the hands of a public entity the information should be released under the state’s Data Practices Act.

Attorneys for the Twins and Major League Baseball argued that the records were part of discovery, private until the court considers the documents. Crump agreed.

(Star Tribune v. Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission; Media counsel, John Borger, Faegre & Benson LLP, Minneapolis) MM

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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