By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Bridget Kelly’s defense attorney Michael Critchley calls it ridiculous.
Veteran criminal defense attorney Joseph Hayden says he’s never seen it before.
They’re talking about U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman’s request last week for a protective order that would essentially keep a million and a half pages of discovery material in the bridge scandal case from public disclosure.
The defense would have to give the government three days to screen and challenge any defense motions that attach any of those million and a half pages.
“Obviously Fishman feels either motions attaching names or documents could hurt his case. Or he feels it could interfere with privacy interests. But it’s a very unusual motion. I’ve never seen it filed before,” Hayden said.
Fishman says he’s mainly trying to protect the privacy of third party individuals.
“Some of it is relatively personal in nature,” he says in court papers, “and pertains to…people not involved in the case — including information of a highly personal nature.”
But Critchley, who declined to go on camera today, told us by phone: “They’re trying to act as censors. It would have a chilling effect on any defense attorney to have to give the government a three-day preview of its motions. The order they’re requesting is way too restrictive.”
What’s the government afraid of here? “Obviously the government is afraid of motions which could be injurious to the theory of the prosecution, motions which could make the defense look sympathetic, or they may have some concern for privacy interests, but they do not ordinarily file a motion like this,” Hayden said.
Bill Baroni’s defense attorney Michael Baldassare also objects to the government’s request.
“I think the defense — and I have a certain sympathy for it — is saying the government doesn’t have a right monitoring our motions. The government does not have a right to screen our motions three days in advance and then decide if it wants to require us to file under seal. We’re professional and we will decide whether it’s appropriate to seek a sealing order or to file things which we think should be out in the public because our clients, Mr. Baroni and Ms. Kelly, have been subject to an avalanche of publicity already,” Hayden said.
Hayden says the right to a fair trail trumps privacy rights.
“Well that’s been the case all the way through. The right to a fair trial is paramount,” Hayden said.
This dispute is now before federal Judge Susan Wigenton. Last week she moved the trial date from July to November. With pre-trial jousting just beginning and a million and a half pages of documents, even that could be optimistic.