Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, conservative commentator Mike Cernovich and the Miami Herald newspaper won on Tuesday a court-ordered unsealing of a defamation lawsuit stemming from the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire who was convicted after pleading guilty in 2008 to soliciting sex with a minor.
The lawsuit, which eventually involved four women who claimed they were victims of Epstein’s sexual misconduct, was filed under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act and sought to void the plea deal Epstein made to avoid a long jail sentence but required him to register as a sex offender.
Over the course of the lawsuit, Epstein’s alleged victims also made sexual misconduct allegations against other high-profile people, including Dershowitz, who had worked on Epstein’s legal team.
The defamation suit was eventually settled but Dershowitz intervened to “strike the outrageous and impertinent allegations made against him and to request a show cause order to the attorneys that have made them,” the court document revealed.
The court documents showed the extent of the sealing done in the case:
Due to the volume of sealing requests filed during discovery, on August 9, 2016, the District Court entered a Sealing Order that effectively ceded control of the sealing process to the parties themselves. The Sealing Order disposed of the requirement that the parties file individual letter briefs to request sealing and prospectively granted all of the parties’ future sealing requests. In total, 167 documents—nearly one‐fifth of the docket—were filed under seal.
The documents also explained the reasons for the unsealing order and directed the District Court to remedy its errors.
In light of the District Court’s failure to conduct an individualized review of the sealed materials, it is necessary to do so now. We believe the District Court is best situated to conduct this review. The District Court can directly communicate with the parties, and can, therefore, more swiftly and thoroughly consider particular objections to unsealing specific materials. Relatedly, the District Court can obtain the parties’ assistance in effecting any necessary redactions, and in notifying any outside parties whose privacy interests might be implicated by the unsealing. Accordingly, we remand the cause to the District Court to conduct such a particularized review and unseal all documents for which the presumption of public access outweighs any countervailing privacy interests.
The case is Brown v. Maxwell, No. 18-2868 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
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