Susan Hutchison wants all records in KIRO-TV discrimination lawsuit kept secret
Susan Hutchison, a candidate for King County executive, maintains that all of the sealed records from her lawsuit against her former employer KIRO-TV should be kept secret.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Susan Hutchison, a candidate for King County executive, maintains that all of the sealed records from her lawsuit against her former employer, KIRO-TV, should be kept secret.
In an argument submitted to King County Superior Court on Monday, Hutchison's lawyer said none of the 753 pages of sealed records in the 2003 discrimination suit should be made public.
Judge Timothy Bradshaw had told Hutchison's lawyer, Jon Rosen, to specify by Monday which of the records he thought could be unsealed.
The Seattle Times has argued the 753 pages, accounting for almost 90 percent of the records in Hutchison's lawsuit, were improperly sealed. The Times' lawyer, Michele Earl-Hubbard, contends the public has an interest in the records because Hutchison, a first-time candidate, is running for the county's highest office.
The primary is Aug. 18.
In a footnote to Monday's court pleading, Rosen wrote that Hutchison has no objection to unsealing more than half of the secret records.
But because The Times might argue that unsealing some of them would waive Hutchison's right to keep the rest under wraps, Rosen wrote, "she is taking the position at this time that each of the court files must remain under seal."
Hutchison declined to comment on the case.
Bradshaw late Tuesday again told Rosen to identify the records he and Hutchison would agree to unseal.
KIRO's lawyers have said they have no problem with unsealing the records.
Under state law, before court records are sealed a judge is supposed to find "compelling circumstances" and provide a public order stating why secrecy is needed. No such order was filed in this case. Instead, the litigants agreed to label most of the court records confidential and were allowed to file them under seal without a court order.
In his Monday pleading, Rosen said the public should see records that show the courts are operating properly. But Rosen argues that the sealed records — consisting of excerpts from depositions — were not part of a court deliberation because Hutchison's case was settled before there was a trial. Thus, the public has no right to the record.
Hutchison's lawsuit alleged race and age discrimination because she was replaced as an evening news anchor by a younger, Asian-American woman. Hutchison and KIRO settled the suit in 2005, agreeing to keep details confidential.
Rosen said keeping such records secret would promote settlements in court, which save the public time and money. "Both employers and employees have an interest in keeping their relationship private. Such an interest encourages settlement of these types of disputes," he wrote.
Rosen also argued the sealed records contain inaccurate allegations by KIRO. In the publicly available records, KIRO claims that Hutchison was "unjustly enriched" by receiving disability pay from the station when she was able to work.
"We're concerned that we have to spend more time to open documents we feel the public has a right to see," said Times Managing Editor Suki Dardarian. "We hope we can resolve this at a court hearing on August 4."
Earl-Hubbard contended that such records are "presumptively open" and the Court of Appeals has already decided this issue.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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