An Ohio trial judge said Friday that documents in a criminal proceeding would remain sealed at the victim's request, even though The Cincinnati Enquirer has asked the state supreme court to order the judge to unseal the records.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Nadine Allen, who called a hearing on Friday in response to the suit filed by the newspaper earlier this week, said she would unseal case documents filed before Aug. 25, but only after the victim's name has been redacted.
Documents filed after Aug. 25 will remain sealed, keeping the trial's resolution and possible punishment against the defendant from public view.
At the hearing, Allen said she looks forward to explaining herself before the Ohio Supreme Court, according to The Enquirer.
"I determined, with agreement of the defense attorney and the attorney for the victim, that the right to public access is outweighed by the risk of injury to the elderly victim,” she said.
The case, Ohio v. Morris, involves a 70-year-old woman who was allegedly swindled out of more than $500,000 by financial planner Martin Morris. Allen sealed the case in late August at the request of the victim's attorney.
Jack Greiner, who represents The Enquirer, said Friday's hearing does not change the paper's plan to move forward with the initial suit.
Under procedural rules put into effect in July of 2009, Ohio judges must review each case document, redact as little as possible, then hold a hearing to specify why the information was withheld from public view.
According to Greiner, Allen has failed to meet those requirements. Allen said the court supports the right of public access, but releasing the records could result in harm to the victim. She did not comment on what kind of harm could befall the victim.
The victim's attorney, Amy Schott Ferguson, also declined to comment on possible harm, stating that her client "really wants this to be a private matter."
Ferguson said Allen "absolutely" gave a good explanation for sealing the case, and she hopes the state supreme court agrees. "But I'm not on the Ohio Supreme Court, so I couldn't tell you how they will rule," she said.
Greiner said the court is likely to refer the case to mediation.