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Judge nixes release of sheriff’s deposition video

Friday, August 21, 2015
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by Patricia Manson

Citing the “significant potential for misuse and annoyance,” a federal judge blocked the public release of a deposition given in a civil case by Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart.

In a written opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown granted Dart’s request to limit access to the written transcript and video of his deposition to the parties in the case.

Dart gave the deposition in a lawsuit brought by Edward Shultz, who alleges correctional officers failed to protect him from an attack by fellow inmates in the Cook County Jail.

Brown wrote that Dart has legitimate concerns that his words could be twisted.

“Once a video is put on the Internet, it is virtually impossible to remove completely,” she wrote. “Transcript excerpts may also be published in out-of-context snippets, presenting similar, albeit perhaps less dramatic problems, particularly when the deponent is a public figure.”

These possibilities call for granting Dart’s motion for a protective order shielding his deposition from public dissemination, Brown wrote.

The lead attorney for Shultz is Patrick W. Morrissey of Thomas G. Morrissey Ltd.

His client does not have a copy of the video and did not oppose Dart’s motion to keep the video confidential, Morrissey said.

He said the video was made only in case Dart is not available to testify at the trial.

But Shultz is considering appealing Brown’s order blocking the public dissemination of the transcript, Morrissey said.

He said Dart discussed his management of the jail in the deposition.

“It’s our belief his testimony shouldn’t be considered confidential,” Morrissey said.

Dart is represented by Assistant State’s Attorney Anthony E. Zecchin.

“We look forward to defending the sheriff against the allegations in the complaint,” spokeswoman Sophia Ansari of the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Shultz was held in the jail for three weeks in 2013 on a misdemeanor charge.

After he pleaded guilty to the charge, he was sentenced to time served and told he was free to leave, Shultz alleges.

But he was taken back to the jail, he alleges, where several inmates attacked him while correctional officers stood by and did nothing.

He suffered brain hemorrhaging and bone fractures, Shultz alleges.

He alleges the defendants — Dart, Cook County and two correctional officers — violated his rights under the Fourth and 14th Amendments.

In blocking the disclosure of Dart’s deposition, Brown conceded that information in court records presumably is public.

But Dart’s deposition has not been filed in the record, she wrote, and has not been used “as part of the judicial decision-making process.”

And there is the possibility that the deposition could be deceptively edited, Brown wrote.

In Felling v. Knight, IP 01-0571-C-T/K, 2001 WL 1782360 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 21, 2001), she wrote, then-U.S. District Judge John Daniel Tinder of the Southern District of Indiana noted there’s a higher likelihood that deposition videos rather than transcripts will be misused.

In that opinion, Tinder — who now serves on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — wrote that videos “can be cut and spliced and used as ‘sound-bites’ on the evening news or sports shows.”

And in the nearly 14 years since Felling was decided, Brown wrote, there has been an “explosive growth of social media and Internet opportunities to broadcast portions of video recordings.”

Brown issued her opinion Tuesday in Edward Shultz v. Thomas Dart, et al., No. 13 C 3641.



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