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Attorneys, reporters to discuss high-profile civil cases

The San Diego County Bar Association and the Society of Professional Journalists will discuss the issues involved in prosecuting and reporting a high-profile civil case Wednesday, June 4.

The program, "To Seal or Not To Seal: What You Don't Know Could Be on Purpose," is the latest in a series featuring perspectives from judges, attorneys and journalists.

It will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the San Diego County Bar Association's conference center (401 W. A St., Suite 120). A hosted cocktail reception at the W Hotel will follow from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Panelists will discuss the life cycle of a civil case, including issues related to sealing files, protecting confidential proprietary or trade secret materials, closed hearings and confidential settlements.

"I think it's healthy and productive to talk about reasons why a party in a civil case would seek protection by sealing, so that their trade secrets or other proprietary information is not publicly disposed," said San Diego attorney Pat Swan, a partner with the law firm Jones Day and a member of the panel.

"There's definitely often a difference of opinion, and maybe a lack of understanding, as to why attorneys in a case would ask for something to be sealed. I don't think I've ever had a case where the press has ever agreed that sealing is appropriate because it obviously limits their ability to report on the facts."

Swan, however, said the press plays a valuable role in presenting a contrary opinion. He is a trial lawyer and represents clients in complex civil and criminal litigation.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright, business litigator Mike Battin of Navigato & Battin, and U-T San Diego reporter Teri Figueroa will join Swan on the panel. San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber will moderate the discussion.

Panelists will talk about both sides of a fictitious case and address the issues lawyers, judges and media need to be aware of when a case arises with big business implications.

"There are cases where it is absolutely appropriate to seal certain parts of the record," Swan said, "but it is the exception and not the rule. I think the public should feel comfortable that the court zealously protects the public's right to know, and the presumption is that court cases are open to the public."

A webcast of the event will be available. For more information, visit sdcba.org/benchbarmedia2014.

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