December 20, 2013
Evan Warren Sokolove
Roxane Sokolove Marenberg,
RICHARD F. STOKES JUDGE
After consideration of the positions presented by counsel at oral argument, Plaintiff Evan Warren Sokolove's ("Evan's) Motion to Open Record and to Vacate Gag Order is GRANTED.
Defendant Roxane Sokolove Marenberg ("Roxane"), against whom Evan brings this action for alleged sexual abuse inflicted by Roxane on Evan throughout his childhood and early adolescence, first requests that the Court not rule on the present Motion, but rather direct the parties, through their own cooperation or the aid of a neutral third party, to craft a protective order concerning issues that, on balance, should remain confidential. If the Court rules on the Motion, Roxane requests that the record remain sealed and the gag order in place until the close of discovery. Her first argument is that no public interest is served in unsealing patently false allegations which will be, or in some cases have been proven untrue. Roxane's second argument is that unsealing the salacious accusations of this troubled young man would grossly outweigh any benefit to him, as it would cause not just Roxane, but the other women in Evan's past against whom he alleged abuse, to suffer public humiliation and re-victimization.
Under this Court's Civil Rule 5(g), all materials relating to a case are open for public access, unless good cause is shown. Although permissible, parties cannot remove cases from the public's view with ease. As the Delaware Court of Chancery has noted, there "is [a] legal duty of the tribunal to honor the legitimate interest of the public and the press in access to judicial proceedings." The Court cannot conclude that the extraordinary measure of keeping the record sealed is warranted in this case, even if Evan's allegations are blatantly false and Roxane and others will suffer public humiliation and re-victimization. The Court finds that its Civil Rule 11 provides the solution to both of Roxane's concerns. Rule 11 operates to curtail the filing of baseless complaints. Also, Rule 11 protects the unfortunate defendant whose reputation will suffer from being confronted with groundless allegations.
The Court does find it necessary, however to address the potential problem of extrajudicial statements that can materially prejudice these proceedings. The parties in this case have a right to have the merits of this case determined by a fair and impartial jury which will decide the issues solely upon the evidence presented at trial. The Court reminds all lawyers involved in this case, including those admitted pro hac vice, that they are bound by the Delaware Lawyers' Rules of Professional Conduct ("Rules"), which imposes on the lawyers, among other things, the requirement that they may not advise clients to do what the Rules forbid of them. Given possible media coverage about this case, the Court finds that unless an order limiting publicity is entered, there is a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to the parties' rights to a fair trial.
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED:
1) Motion to Open Record and to Vacate Gag Order is GRANTED.
2)Counsel for both parties are precluded from public commentary regarding this case, except in accordance with Rule 3.6 of the Rules.
3)The parties themselves are precluded fro m public commentary regarding this case, except in accordance with Rule 3.6 of the Rules.
4) All persons assisting or associated with counsel for both parties are precluded from public commentary regarding this case, except in accordance with Rule 3.6 of the Rules.
5) Counsel for both parties shall promptly make the parties and all other persons that this Order binds aware of this Order.
6)The parties have not been able to agree on a comprehensive protective order for potential confidential information. Should concerns arise during discovery, the parties may seek a protective order under this Court's Rule 26(c).
Very truly yours,
Richard F. Stokes Judge