Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's the big secret?

Here's more on the Mutual Benefits recusal from Vanessa Blum...

Our previous coverage here.

From the Blum article:

Over objections from area newspapers, a federal judge today closed a court hearing on secret filings in a case stemming from one of South Florida's biggest frauds.U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan said he would consider releasing the secret documents and a transcript of the hearing, in whole or in part, after weighing concerns raised by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald.The newspapers are trying to break through a wall of secrecy surrounding the latest criminal charges related to Mutual Benefits Corp., a now defunct Fort Lauderdale investment firm.
Deanna Shullman, an attorney representing the Sun Sentinel, told Jordan that federal law gives members of the public and media representatives the right to view court records, barring extraordinary circumstances.In a motion, Shullman stated that secrecy in such a high-profile case would create rumors and raise questions about the integrity of the justice system."Greater access is the best medicine to restore the public's faith and confidence in these proceedings," Shullman stated.Following arguments from Shullman and Herald attorney Scott Ponce, Jordan closed the hearing to the public. He said he would rule in the coming weeks."There are a lot of difficult and thorny issues here," Jordan said. "I'm doing my best to navigate my way through."Jordan received the case in January after two other federal judges stepped aside, citing undisclosed conflicts of interest. In addition, two officials in the U.S. Attorney's Office have recused themselves from involvement in the prosecution.The Mutual Benefits case has also drawn interest because the company had deep ties to elected officials in Broward County.

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