Clinton Deposition Still Sealed

The judge in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against President Clinton refused Monday requests by reporters and a conservative legal organization to lift the gag order she imposed on lawyers in the case and to make public Mr. Clinton's deposition.
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In caustic tones, Judge Susan Webber Wright, said the performance of news organizations in covering the Jones and Monica Lewinsky cases only heightened her determination to keep the materials under seal.

"The media has shown an increasingly callous disregard of the right of the parties to a fair trial," Wright's order said.

The judge dismissed arguments by a consortium of news agencies and by Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative legal interest organization, that the best method of avoiding inaccurate reporting was to make available pretrial depositions.

"Such an 'antidote' for curing their own misreporting assumes that any information that is unsealed would be accurately reported, an assumption the court is simply not willing to make given the previous reporting of materials that are not under seal," Wright said.

"Driven by profit and intense competition, gossip, speculation, and innuendo have replaced legitimate sources and attribution as the tool of the trade for many of these media representatives," Wright continued.

"Stories are apparently no longer subjected to critical examination prior to being printed. Indeed, the printing of a story in one publication is itself now considered newsworthy and justification for its reprinting in other publications, without critical examination for accuracy and bias," Wright wrote.

"Thus, stories without attribution and based on gossip, speculation, and innuendo fly through media outlets with blinding speed, only later to be placed in context or subjected to clarification and/or retraction, as the case may be," Wright summarized.

Noting that the Supreme Court held in previous cases that sealing pretrial depositions did not violate First Amendment freedoms, Wright said she would continue her order sealing materials in the Jones case. To do otherwise, she said, would jeopardize Mr. Clinton's right to a fair trial.

"Much of the discovery in this case has delved deeply into the personal lives of individuals and elicited information that, regardless of its truth or falsity, could prove damaging to reputation and privacy," Judge Wright said.

"Many in the media have shown no restraint in their willingness to place such personal information in the public domain, despite the pain it may cause," Wright said

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