Newspaper files emergency order to preserve expunged sexual assault case

Steve Gonzalez May 5, 2006, 10:13pm

The Belleville News-Democrat filed an emergency motion seeking an order to preserve a sexual assault case dismissed last week in Madison County Circuit Court.

Joseph Martineau of Lewis, Rice and Fingersh of St. Louis filed the motion May 5 on behalf of the newspaper claiming the lawsuit alleges acts of "sexual impropriety involving noteworthy individuals."

The lawsuit was filed April 21 under fictitious named plaintiffs and defendants.

Former Madison County Chief Judge Edward Ferguson allowed the case to be sealed.

At the request of plaintiffs, the lawsuit was dismissed and expunged by Circuit Judge Daniel Stack May 5 a day after the Record reported on the matter. Stack said it could be refiled within a year.

"Courts, including Illinois courts, have unanimously maintained that the press and any member of the public has a justifiable interest in the openness of the courts and court files and the public availability of court records and may intervene to preserve that right," Martineau's motion states.

Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn set a hearing on the motion at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 9.

The plaintiffs were John Doe, by his mother and friend, Julie Doe, Joseph Doe, Jane Doe, by her mother and friend, Julie Doe, Mary Doe and James Doe.

Defendants' were John Roe, John Roe, II, John Roe, III, and John Roe IV.

Stack said the purpose of filing a lawsuit under fictitious names is possibly to protect the identities of juveniles.

But he also said that "there are other ways to protect juveniles." Before it was dismissed, Stack said he would consider unsealing the case.

Stack said he was not aware of the lawsuit until a group of reporters asked him about it.

He looked up 06L365 on his office computer and learned that the case was indeed his and confirmed the case was impounded and sealed by Ferguson.

The newspaper's motion also states, "Any destruction of the file would deprive Movants of rights guaranteed them under common law, the Illinois Constitution and the United States Constitution."

"Movants potentially would be irreparably harmed if the file was destroyed or removed from safe keeping by the Court and the clerk's office."

According to the motion, the Belleville News-Democrat is asking the file to be preserved in its current condition until it can file a formal application for intervention and motion to rescind the order closing and impounding the file.

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Belleville News-Democrat
120 S Illinois St
Belleville, IL 62220-2130

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