Thursday, April 30, 2009

The City Has A Paper, After All -- The City Paper

A strange confluence of events -- a divorce featuring hookers and arrests and billions of dollars, one newspaper published by a participant in the divorce, another newspaper curiously inactive, a weak judge -- has led to a remarkable circumstance in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in recent years: a court proceeding so shrouded that the public has been forbidden to see the court order declaring that the public can not know the events in a public courtroom.

The Pittsburgh City Paper, low on resources and competition, is valiantly attempting -- with the able assistance of Vic Walczak (left) and Sara Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union -- to force sunshine into the courtroom of Judge Alan Hertzberg, venue of the divorce litigation involving Richard Scaife.

The City Paper has asked Judge Hertzberg to open the courtroom and to unseal the docket (the formal record of documents maintained by the court clerk). After yesterday's hearing, Chris Potter reports small but unprecedented progress: The judge permitted the public to attend the hearing concerning a request to unseal the docket, despite vehement objections from the divorcing couple's lawyers.

Pittsburgh is lucky to have the City Paper, the City Paper is lucky to have the ACLU, and the Scaifes are fortunate to have gotten this far in their effort to conduct secret litigation in a public courtroom.

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