Appeals Court Adds an Interesting Footnote to Bill Cosby Scandal

An appeals court won't re-seal Cosby court documents, but seems to suggest that a federal judge was wrong in letting his deposition become public in the first place.
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Bill Cosby

Did a federal judge screw Bill Cosby?

Back in July 2015, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno agreed to open up court records in Andrea Constand's decade-old civil lawsuit against the entertainer. He did so upon finding that Cosby "has donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education and crime."

Robreno's ruling meant an unsealing of excerpts of Cosby's deposition where the entertainer admitted to extramarital affairs and giving women Quaaludes. The admission, which made headlines everywhere, later paved the way for an aggravated indecent assault charge against Cosby, who continues to fight the possibility of going to jail for his behavior towards former Temple University employee Constand in 2004.

On Monday, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Cosby's bid to have these court records re-sealed. The federal appeals court believes that it would be pointless to hinder access to materials that have already circulated widely and are available to anyone with an internet connection who is curious about what Cosby admitted to doing. Additionally, Cosby is unsuccessful in arguing that a re-sealing would affect whether others could use these sensitive documents in ongoing litigation. At the 3rd Circuit, Judge Thomas Ambro writes that Cosby cites no authority that a re-sealing would render them inadmissible in other lawsuits.

Because of the mootness, it's really too late to do anything about Robreno's decision to unseal these documents. But was the outcome of a decision credited with leading to criminal prosecution of Cosby in error? That's what the 3rd Circuit seems to suggest in a footnote. 

"While we are without jurisdiction to review this question, it is worth noting that, if we could review it, we would have serious reservations about the District Court’s 'public moralist' rationale," Ambro writes. "It has no basis in our jurisprudence regarding the conditions for modifying a protective order as set forth in Pansy and its progeny. Moreover, the term 'public moralist' is vague and undefined."

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