Lacrosse litigation: Duke fighting to keep depositions, documents a secret

✔✔ There will be a key hearing in federal court on Wednesday in the lawsuits brought by 38 Duke lacrosse players against the university. The 36 escaped indictment in the hoax five years ago where a stripper at a team party alleged rape. Loyal Readers will recall that three players who were indicted by dishonest prosecutor Michael Nifong settled their claims against Duke right after they were declared "innocent" by the state attorney general.

The hearing deals with pre-trial discovery -- the right of the plaintiffs to bring in witnesses under oath and to demand to see documents like e-mails.

Issue 1: where will the depositions be held? The students -- now dispersed all over the country and world -- want Duke lawyers to travel to them. That's an uphill legal battle.

Issue 2: Duke wants a court order to keep everything it tells the plaintiffs lawyers a secret. There is some feeling that parts of the testimony and evidence will be highly embarrassing to President Brodhead and former Trustee chair Robert King Steel. The plaintiffs say they will probably go along with redacting any appropriate segments.

One key contention of the players is that Duke administrators violated confidentiality promises and conspired with local authorities to hide the fact that they released without subpoena key-card information about the players' comings and goings.

The City of Durham is also being sued. But that part of the case is on hold pending an appeal of preliminary issues.

The deposition phase and the appeal are expected to take another year. Down the road there will be a trial. And hopefully justice.

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