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Rush Records Flap Back In Court

Rush Limbaugh's attorney will argue before an appeals court on Wednesday why the conservative commentator's medical records should be kept sealed from prosecutors who accuse him of illegally buying prescription drugs.

If Limbaugh's appeal succeeds, the criminal case against him could be stalled for good.

But if the appellate court sides with prosecutors, the ruling could finally open the records to prosecutors who have been waiting for months to pursue their case against Limbaugh.

Palm Beach prosecutors allege that Limbaugh illegally went "doctor shopping" to obtain pain pills. The practice refers to visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions of controlled narcotics.

Prosecutors went after Limbaugh's medical records in November after learning that he received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion.

Limbaugh, 53, has not been charged with a crime and the investigation is at a standstill — pending the Fourth District Court of Appeal's decision on the medical records.

Limbaugh, who publicly sought treatment for his addiction in October, has accused Palm Beach State Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat, of going after him for political gain. He alleges that prosecutors violated his privacy rights to make their public case against him.

Joining the well-known conservative in his legal battle is the liberal American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU argues that the outcome of the Limbaugh case could affect the confidentiality of doctor-patient relationships and privacy rights of all Floridians.

"People have to be smart about this and not get hung up on the celebrity and notoriety of the central figure of this case," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. "The real issue is, 'Can law enforcement authorities simply ignore the law when they think it's necessary and seize somebody's medical records?'"

Krischer has insisted that investigators followed the law when they seized Limbaugh's records and that his rights have been protected. A spokesman for his office declined comment on Tuesday.

Krischer's office began the investigation more than a year ago after Limbaugh's former maid told them she sold Limbaugh "large quantities of hydrocodone, Oxycontin and other pharmaceutical drugs" for years. She provided investigators with e-mails and answering machine recordings to support her claims.

Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, has said if unsealed, the medical records would only prove Limbaugh suffered from a serious medical condition and was prescribed painkillers. He declined to comment on Tuesday.

Limbaugh admitted his addiction to the pain medication in October, saying it stemmed from severe back pain. He took a five-week leave from his afternoon radio show to enter a rehabilitation program.

By Jill Barton

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