Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pursues details on Joan Orie Melvin filing
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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday filed a motion seeking to unseal documents in federal court filed by suspended state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin.
Last week, Justice Orie Melvin, who faces criminal trial later this month, filed a motion seeking to reveal the identity of a woman who claimed in a federal lawsuit that she contracted a sexually transmitted disease from a doctor she'd been dating.
Justice Orie Melvin's attorneys asked -- and received permission -- to file their supporting briefs under seal. They claimed in their filing that the woman's allegations have "direct bearing" on Justice Orie Melvin's trial.
The attorney for the woman identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, Stephen S. Stallings, filed his response to the justice's brief Friday, also under seal.
He earlier had called Justice Orie Melvin's attempts to reveal his client's name "disgusting."
The newspaper is not seeking to identify Jane Doe, Post-Gazette attorney Fritz Byers wrote in his brief.
"[T]he Post-Gazette seeks access only to the reasons proffered by Justice Orie Melvin in her motion as to why she believes she is entitled to make Jane Doe known to the public."
Mr. Byers said the newspaper has no interest in publicizing the name of Jane Doe or information on the underlying case; rather, "the public interest being advanced by the Post-Gazette is in learning why Justice Orie Melvin believes that Jane Doe's privacy interests, which supported the initial sealing, are now outweighed by her rights to publicly disclose Jane Doe's identity."
Mr. Byers said that by allowing the parties to file the documents under seal, the court denied public access to a judicial document that Justice Orie Melvin considers to impact "critical Constitutional interests."
He claimed in the brief that the documents under the law are "presumptively public." Even if Chief U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster finds that the circumstances do permit sealing the filings, he must at a minimum convene a public proceeding in which the parties establish why that's the case.
In the event the judge would still decide to seal the filings, Mr. Byers said, he would be required to articulate specific findings that led to his conclusion.
Justice Orie Melvin is scheduled to go to trial on seven counts, including theft of services, Jan. 23. The prosecution alleges that she used her judicial staff to run election campaigns for the high court in 2003 and 2009.
First Published January 15, 2013 12:00 am