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Judge Lifts Jones Gag Order

A federal judge Tuesday ordered most of the court filings in Paula Jones' sexual-harassment lawsuit against President Clinton unsealed - but will give the case's principals time to appeal.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright concluded that leaks, disclosures in court filings, and her April 1 decision dismissing the suit left no reason for keeping most records confidential.

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Wright said the names, addresses, and other information about women named in the files will be kept private. But she said other information, including a full transcript of President Clinton's deposition, would be made public after a 10-day appeal period.

By opening the file, the judge lays open scores of pleadings, documents, and depositions from potential witnesses, including women alleged to have links to the president.

Wright imposed a confidentiality order in the case last fall, as lawyers for Jones began exploring Mr. Clinton's sexual past and the lawyer for Mr. Clinton's co-defendant, Danny Ferguson, declared Jones' sexual history fair game.

A dozen media groups had asked the judge to unseal the file and lift the gag order.

Lawyers for Mr. Clinton had argued that the order needed to stay in place permanently because of the risk that materials could be used improperly - in particular by Jones if she decides to develop the material for a book or movie.

In papers filed two weeks ago, Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett also argued the file should remain closed in case the federal appeals court reverses Wright's dismissal of the suit. Jones' lawyers made the same argument.

But the judge said the appeal of the dismissal of the lawsuit won't be decided for months and if the appeals court does reinstate it, any trial date would most likely not be set until sometime next year.

"There is now no imminent trial in which prejudicial pre-trial publicity remains a concern," she wrote.

"Because a significant part of the record...has, in one form or another been made public, there is no need to maintain under seal those materials that continue to be subject to the confidentiality order," the judge ruled.

After Wright ordered the case dismissed, the U.S. Circuit Court the appeals court told the judge to reconsider her confidentiality order, which both closed the files and imposed a gag order on parties involved.

Media organizations who sued to lift the order include CBS; the Associated Press; The New York Times; Pulitzer Publishing; USA Today; ABC; NBC; CNN; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Fox News Network; the Society of Professional Jounalists; and Little Rock Newspapers Inc., the publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Written by James Jefferson

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