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Reporter wins unsealing of cruise line settlement records

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  1. Newsgathering
A Connecticut probate judge on Wednesday granted a reporter’s request to unseal records of a hearing upholding a $1.1 million settlement…

A Connecticut probate judge on Wednesday granted a reporter’s request to unseal records of a hearing upholding a $1.1 million settlement between Royal Caribbean cruise line and the widow of a man who disappeared while on a honeymoon cruise, the Greenwich Citizen and the Greenwich Post reported.

Joan Lownds requested the release of records including the transcript of Jennifer Hagel Smith’s testimony at the hearing. The judge initially sealed the documents for confidentiality reasons. Lownds had been covering the story for local papers since George Smith IV went missing in July 2005; according to the Citizen, she argued that the judge should grant her request because the information "is necessary to cover this important and highly publicized case fairly and accurately."

George Smith’s family members, who also requested that the records be unsealed, appealed Hagel Smith’s settlement in order to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the cruise line, the Citizen said. Judge David Hopper ordered that the records be opened and reviewed by the parties and the Department of Justice before they are released in 60 days, in case any portions need redaction.