A federal judge in New York on Monday ruled that a cache of previously unreleased documents concerning dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein would not be released as part of a defamation dispute involving Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell and alleged victim Virginia Giuffre.
Though the case ended in 2015, Giuffre’s attorneys have sought to unseal additional documents initially filed under seal while Maxwell’s legal team argued that documents do not fall under the definition of “judicial documents,” and therefore are not subject to the presumption of access by the public.
In an 11-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska, who in August ordered the release of more than 2,000 previously sealed documents, found that the remaining tranche of documents were not “judicial” in nature and therefore not subject to the presumption of public access.
In order for a document to be considered “judicial,” it must be “somehow relevant” to the exercise of federal courts in determining “actual controversies arising between adverse litigants.”
“In this case, the underlying litigation between Ms. Giuffre and Ms. Maxwell has long since settled,” Preska wrote. “Accordingly, all disputes regarding the underlying merits of the action have been rendered moot by the settlement. There is thus no live controversy to which the judicial power can extend.”
The vast majority of the documents in question were motions filed by Giuffre that the trial court judge did not rule on before the case settled.
“With respect to motions left undecided by [the trial judge], there was never, and now never can be, a judicial decision-making process that would trigger the public’s right to access the undecided motions and the documents relevant to them,” Preska wrote.
But Preska also stressed that her ruling was narrow in scope, meaning it was tailored to the specific facts currently available, and could be subject to change.
“The Court is mindful of the fact that there is a great deal of public intrigue surrounding the unsealing of the documents at issue here. With that in mind, the Court emphasizes that this ruling is a narrow one,” she wrote. “Notwithstanding the fact that the undecided motions and the papers associated with them are not judicial documents, they may eventually be unsealed because they are in some way relevant to [the trial judge’s] actual decisions—which are numerous—that are certainly subject to the presumption of public access.”
Read Judge Preska’s full decision below:
[image via mugshot]
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