Attorneys seek to seal Pennsylvania State Police gun lawsuit

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Both sides in a lawsuit over a thwarted gun purchase filed an unusual joint motion late Friday to seal the case from public view.

Jeffrey L. Burtner, of Butler, sued the Pennsylvania State Police in June, claiming that he was told he couldn't buy a gun because he was a "mental defective."

People who have been adjudicated as mentally defective or committed to a mental institution aren't allowed to own guns. Mr. Burtner, according to the lawsuit, had been able to buy guns in the past, and showed the state that he should not have been barred from buying more, but police refused to correct the error.

In the Friday motion, Joshua Prince, who is the attorney for Mr. Burtner, and deputy attorney general Sandra A. Kozlowski both agreed that the case "includes material that is sensitive and confidential, including medical records." They agreed that the case "contains information about Mr. Burtner's marriage and personal affairs" and his attempts to buy guns.

"Failure to keep this confidential information sealed would also discourage future petitioners from exercising their rights to challenge erroneous denials," they wrote. Those factors, they wrote, trump the general rule that court files are public.

It is common in federal civil lawsuits for parties to agree to the sealing of some records or to redact sensitive material, but unusual to seal an entire case.

Neither Mr. Prince nor Ms. Kozlowski could be reached Saturday. The case is before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly.

breaking - state

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.


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