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Originally published Wednesday, August 5, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Judge to rule on Susan Hutchison-KIRO-TV discrimination records Friday

King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw says he will rule Friday on an effort by news organizations to unseal records of Susan Hutchison's discrimination lawsuit against KIRO-TV, her former employer.

Seattle Times staff reporter

King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw said Tuesday he'd rule Friday on an effort by The Seattle Times and other news organizations to unseal records of Susan Hutchison's discrimination lawsuit against KIRO-TV, her former employer.

But that doesn't mean the public will see records that day. Hutchison's lawyer Jon Rosen said that if the judge rules to unseal the records, he might ask for a stay so he could appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In a hearing Tuesday, Bradshaw said he was mindful that Hutchison is running for King County executive and ballots for the Aug. 18 primary have been mailed to almost 1.1 million voters. But he said he was concerned with the legal process, not the political one.

His decision "will be made under law, not under other considerations," Bradshaw said, adding the court was "going to do this thoroughly and right."

Rosen argued Tuesday he needed more time to prepare Hutchison's argument against unsealing records. The judge gave him until noon Wednesday to file his argument.

The Times estimates that 753 of the 859 pages of records in Hutchison's 2003 lawsuit are improperly sealed.

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.

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 has argued that keeping such records secret would promote settlements in court, which save the public time and money. He has also argued that unsealing records would discourage other people from filing discrimination suits against their employers.

KIRO's lawyer, Bruce Johnson, has said he has no problem with unsealing the records, except for employees' Social Security numbers, salary information and a proprietary study of evening newscasts. Johnson said KIRO would oppose a stay in releasing records.

Bradshaw told Rosen to prepare a copy of the records for release, with legal arguments for any exceptions he seeks. He said Rosen should "assume the court will be unsealing the file."

Hutchison is among five leading candidates for county executive: The others are King County Councilmembers Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips, state Rep. Ross Hunter and state Sen. Fred Jarrett.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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