Weinstein jury renews deliberations after deadlock on most serious charges

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Jurors in the sexual assault trial of former movie producer Harvey Weinstein began their fifth day of deliberations on Monday, after suggesting last week they were deadlocked on the most serious charges in the case.

Weinstein arrived at court after breakfast at the Four Seasons New York Downtown hotel, wearing a navy blue suit and leaning on a walker. He appeared to be in an upbeat mood.

“Good morning everyone,” he said as he passed journalists in the courthouse hallway and paused for photos.

Weinstein, 67, pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi and raping Jessica Mann, a onetime aspiring actress.

On Friday, the jury of seven men and five women asked the judge whether they could be hung on two counts of predatory sexual assault and unanimous on the others, which include first-degree rape.

Conviction on the predatory assault charges, which carry a potential life sentence, would indicate that Weinstein is a repeat sexual offender. Two of the other three charges carry prison terms of up to 25 years; a third carries a sentence of up to 4 years.

Legal experts said the jury’s questions suggested they were nearing a guilty verdict on at least one of the five counts against the producer of movies including “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love.”

Weinstein has denied the charges. A source within Weinstein’s defense team said speculation about the verdict would be “premature and a mistake.”

Paul Callan, a former prosecutor, said an acquittal is still possible and “anything can happen after a weekend of reflection.” The jury began its deliberations last Tuesday.

During the weeks-long trial Haleyi testified that Weinstein invited her to his Manhattan home in 2006 and then backed her into a bedroom and forcibly performed oral sex on her.

Mann said that soon after meeting Weinstein she began an “extremely degrading” relationship with him that never included intercourse until, she alleged, he raped her in March 2013.

Another accuser, Annabella Sciorra, best known for her role in HBO’s “The Sopranos,” testified that Weinstein came to her New York apartment one winter night in 1993 or 1994, raped her and then forced oral sex on her.

That accusation is too old to be charged as a separate crime, but was introduced by prosecutors as an aggravating factor for the predatory sexual assault charges.

Jurors appeared to focus on Sciorra’s allegations on Thursday and Friday, asking to review extensive evidence related to her.

Jurors can convict Weinstein of predatory sexual assault if they find that he committed the alleged assault against Sciorra and at least one of the alleged crimes against Haleyi or Mann.

Defense lawyer Michael Bachner, who is not involved in the case, said it seemed the jury had decided to convict Weinstein on the counts related to the individual complainants.

“Otherwise there really would be no reason for them to be considering the testimony of Ms. Sciorra,” Bachner said on Friday.

However, legal experts cautioned that the jurors could be confused by the complexity of the predatory sexual assault charges and the verdict sheet.

Since 2017, more than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. He has said any sexual encounters were consensual.

The allegations fueled the #MeToo movement, in which women have accused powerful men in business, entertainment, media and politics of sexual misconduct.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

Harvey Weinstein jury selection: bias, big data and ‘likes’

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – When lawyers in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial question potential jurors on Thursday, they may already know who has used the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter or criticized victims of sexual harassment in a Facebook discussion.

The intersection of big data capabilities and prevalence of social media has transformed the business of jury research in the United States, which once meant gleaning information about potential jurors from car bumper stickers or the appearance of a home.

Now, consultants scour Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other social media platforms for hard-to-find comments or “likes” in discussion groups or even selfies of a juror wearing a potentially biased t-shirt.

“This is a whole new generation of information than we had in the past,” said Jeffrey Frederick, the director of Jury Research Services at the National Legal Research Group Inc.

The techniques seem tailor-made for the Weinstein trial, which has become a focal point for #MeToo, the social media movement that has exposed sexual misconduct by powerful men in business, politics and entertainment.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women. The once-powerful movie producer faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.

On Thursday, the legal teams will begin questioning potential jurors, a process known as voir dire. More than 100 people passed an initial screening and the identities of many of those people have been known publicly for days, allowing for extensive background research.

Mark Geragos, a defense lawyer, said it is almost malpractice to ignore jurors’ online activity, particularly in high-profile cases.

When Geragos was representing Scott Peterson, who was later found guilty of the 2002 murder of his pregnant wife Laci, it came to light that a woman told an internet chatroom she had duped both legal teams to get on the California jury.

“You just never know if someone is telling the truth,” said Geragos.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told Reuters recently that her team was considering hiring a firm to investigate jurors’ social media use to weed out bias.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office does not use jury consultants and office spokesman Danny Frost declined to comment if prosecutors were reviewing potential jurors’ social media.

Frederick’s firm, which has not been involved in the Weinstein case, creates huge databases of online activity relevant to a case, drilling down into interactions that do not appear in a user’s social media timeline. His firm combs through Facebook news articles about a particular case or topic, cataloging every comment, reply, share as well as emojis or “likes,” in the hopes some were posted by a potential juror.

“The social media aspect can be enormously helpful in looking at people’s political motives,” said defense attorney Michael Bachner. He said Weinstein’s team will probably want to know about a potential juror’s ties to women’s causes, with “#MeToo being the obvious one.”

Consultants only use public information and focus on those with extremist views, said Roy Futterman of consulting firm DOAR.

“You’re looking for the worst juror,” he said.

Julieanne Himelstein, a former federal prosecutor, said the best vetting tool remains a lawyer’s questioning of a potential juror in the courtroom.

“That trumps all the sophisticated intelligence gathering anyone can do,” said Himelstein.

But trial veterans said that potential jurors are reluctant to admit unpopular viewpoints during voir dire, such as skepticism about workplace sexual harassment.

During questioning in a trial involving a drug company, consultant Christina Marinakis recalled a potential juror who said he did not have negative feelings toward pharmaceutical companies.

“We found he had a blog where he was just going off on capitalism and Corporate America and pharmaceutical companies especially,” said Marinakis, the director of jury research for Litigation Insights. The juror was dismissed.

Marinakis said the blog was written under a username, and only came to light by digging through the juror’s social media for references to pseudonyms.

Lawyers can reject an unlimited number of potential jurors if they show bias. Each side can typically use “peremptory” challenges to eliminate up to three potential jurors they believe will be unsympathetic, without providing a reason.

In a Canadian civil trial, jury consulting firm Vijilent discovered that a potential juror who appeared to be a stay-at-home mom with no history of social activism, in fact had been arrested three times for civil disobedience while promoting the causes of indigenous people.

“Unless you got into her social media, you wouldn’t have known that information,” said Vijilent founder Rosanna Garcia.

(Reporting by Tom Hals; additional reporting by Brendan Pierson and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Rosalba O’Brien)

Judge threatens Harvey Weinstein with jail for texting in court

Judge threatens Harvey Weinstein with jail for texting in court
By Gabriella Borter and Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Harvey Weinstein’s rape trial took a dramatic turn on Tuesday as the judge threatened to revoke his bail and jail the former film producer after catching him using his cellphone just as jury selection got underway.

“Is this really the way you want to end up in jail for the rest of your life, by texting and violating a court order?” state Judge James Burke asked the 67-year-old defendant, visibly angry.

“I’m not looking for apologies; I’m looking for compliance,” Burke said.

The once-powerful producer has been released on bail, but is required to wear an electronic-tracking device that was visible on his ankle when he arrived at court on Tuesday.

Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women in New York. He faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.

Jury selection began with Burke speaking to 120 potential jurors in the courtroom about the importance of jury service and telling them the identity of the defendant.

“Having heard of him, or even having heard the allegations made against him in the press, does not disqualify you,” he told them.

Burke read to jurors a list of dozens of names that might come up at the trial, including actresses Salma Hayek and Charlize Theron, who have accused Weinstein of misconduct.

He also mentioned actress Alyssa Milano. Days after reports of Weinstein’s alleged misconduct was first reported in October 2017, Milano wrote on Twitter “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

That message propelled the #MeToo movement, which prompted women to lodge misconduct allegations against powerful men in politics and business.

Burke did not say if the people he mentioned would be called as witnesses.

Prosecutors have said they may call three women to testify about encounters with Weinstein, even though he is not formally charged with crimes against them. Their testimony is intended to bolster the charges by showing that Weinstein had a consistent pattern of behavior.

Michelle Gelernt, a public defender who briefly represented Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, raised her had when asked if anyone knew the legal teams. She said she knew the judge and lead prosecutor but it would not prevent her from being impartial.

Forty potential jurors were excused after saying they could not be impartial, and a small number said their health prevented them from serving.

Those who said they believed serving on the jury would be a hardship were called one by one to speak with the judge and lawyers privately.

The remaining jurors were told to take a written questionnaire and return on Jan. 16 for further selection if they believed they were able to serve.

On Monday, hours after Weinstein’s trial in New York started, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey charged Weinstein with the sexual assault of two unidentified women in 2013.

More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct dating back decades.

Weinstein has denied the allegations, saying any sexual encounters he had were consensual.

Burke denied a request by one of Weinstein’s lawyers, Arthur Aidala, to delay the trial or at least allow more time for jury selection because Monday’s charges would make it impossible to choose a fair and impartial jury this week.

“I cannot think of one time, one case where the day of jury selection this type of prejudice is being cast against a criminal defendant,” said Aidala, who held up copies of the New York Times, Daily News and New York Post with articles about the Los Angeles charges.

“I don’t see how anyone could answer honestly that they’re fair and impartial after this stuff is drilled into their brains,” he said.

Legal experts said the #MeToo movement and Monday’s charges would make jury selection challenging in the trial of Weinstein, who made his mark with low-budget, critically acclaimed films such as “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love.”

“The defendant, Harvey Weinstein is a film producer,” stated the form with 55 questions potential jurors were asked to answer. “Can you assure all parties that you will determine this case based only on the evidence you will hear in Court?”

Jurors were also asked if they had read about the case or Weinstein, if they or a family member was ever a victim of sexual abuse or if they or a family member ever worked in the entertainment business.

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, said the 2,000 jurors summoned for the Weinstein case is roughly five times the number for a typical trial. Based on past experience, about 500 were likely to show up for jury duty.

Prosecutors need all 12 jurors to back a conviction, while Weinstein needs just one holdout for a hung jury.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis)

Timeline: The Harvey Weinstein story – From the studio to the courtroom

(Reuters) – Here is a timeline recounting the highs and lows over 40 years in the life of Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful Hollywood executives, who faces criminal sexual assault charges at a jury trial in New York state court next week.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges he sexually assaulted two women, one in 2006 and another in 2013. More than 80 women have made allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

Juda Engelmayer, a spokesman for Weinstein, said late on Thursday that the two women in the criminal case had long-term relationships with Weinstein. He said it was prejudicial to conflate the criminal matter with allegations in civil cases or with public grievances he said were lodged by women who were not part of any suit.

1979 – Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob found independent film distribution and production company Miramax, naming it after their parents, Miriam and Max.

June 1993 – The Walt Disney Company buys Miramax for $80 million but the brothers stay on until 2005.

May 1994 – Director Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” starring Uma Thurman and John Travolta and backed by Miramax, wins the prestigious Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.

1997 – Miramax wins its first Academy Award for best picture with “The English Patient.”

1999 – Miramax’s “Shakespeare in Love” wins seven Oscars – including best picture and best actress for Gwyneth Paltrow.

2004 – Weinstein divorces his first wife Eve Chilton, with whom he has three daughters.

2005 – The Weinstein brothers leave Miramax to set up their own production company, The Weinstein Company.

2007 – Weinstein marries English fashion director Georgina Chapman.

Oct. 5, 2017 – The New York Times reports Weinstein settled with eight women who accused him of unwanted physical contact and sexual harassment over three decades. Weinstein in a statement apologized for causing pain to colleagues and said he was taking a leave of absence and entering therapy. Reuters did not independently verify the details of the New York Times report.

Oct. 6, 2017 – Weinstein takes indefinite leave of absence from The Weinstein Co. The company later says he is fired.

Oct. 10, 2017 – The New Yorker reports allegations by 13 women who said Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, including three who said he raped them. Weinstein again denies non-consensual sex. Reuters did not independently verify the details of The New Yorker’s accounts.

Oct. 10, 2017 – Chapman, Weinstein’s wife, says she is leaving him.

Oct. 14, 2017 – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that selects the Oscar winners, expels Weinstein.

October 2017 – Actress Alyssa Milano fuels the expansion of the #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke, by writing on Twitter: “If you’ve ever been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” In the following weeks, #MeToo would be used by millions of women.

Jan. 1, 2018 – Hollywood celebrities launch the Time’s Up campaign to fight sexual harassment in the workplace.

May 25, 2018 – Weinstein surrenders to New York police on charges of rape and a criminal sex act involving alleged assaults against two women, in 2004 and 2013.

June 5, 2018 – Weinstein pleads not guilty to the charges.

June 9, 2018 – Weinstein pleads not guilty to new charges of sexually assaulting a third woman in 2006.

Oct. 11, 2018 – Weinstein wins dismissal of the charges over the alleged 2004 assault. Charges involving the other two women remain pending.

Jan. 17, 2019 – Benjamin Brafman, Weinstein’s defense attorney, issues statement saying he is quitting, without elaborating.

Jan. 25, 2019 – Weinstein appears in court to announce new defense team.

April 26, 2019 – Weinstein’s trial is delayed until Sept. 9 to allow defense more time to gather evidence.

July 11, 2019 – Weinstein hires third legal team after second team of defense attorneys exits the case.

Aug. 26, 2019 – Weinstein pleads not guilty to new indictment involving the same two women accusing him of two counts of predatory sexual assault, in 2006 and 2013. His trial is pushed back to Jan. 6, 2020.

Dec. 11, 2019 – Weinstein and his bankrupt studio reach tentative $25 million settlement with dozens of women who accused him of sexual misconduct. Representatives for Weinstein declined to comment.

Jan. 7, 2020 – Jury selection at Weinstein’s trial expected to begin.

(Reporting by Diane Craft; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brendan Pierson; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Daniel Wallis)

Two years on, Hollywood reflects on #MeToo changes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – This week marks two years since the New York Times and the New Yorker published accounts by multiple women accusing film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, fueling the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and a drive to empower women who work behind and in front of the camera.

Weinstein is due to stand trial in January on charges of rape and predatory assault of two women. He denies any non-consensual sex.

Reuters asked actors, directors and producers how much Hollywood has changed since October 2017. Below are their replies, edited for length and clarity.


“I’d like to say that I feel like men might be beginning to behave themselves a little bit better, and I say maybe. I’m not saying they have definitively, but there is a new way of communicating, or a slightly new awareness, an awareness shift that’s happened. It’s in process. This job is not done. It will never be done, but I think there’s a way of communicating that has improved, hopefully.”


“The #MeToo movement – my sister was one of the first people to come out – and I think it’s had a ripple effect all across the world, beyond Hollywood. Luckily there is more representation of women and women of color on television than there was before, but it’s still not really equal yet … Activists and people have been trying to get this work done for a long, long time, but the more we have this conversation, the more we ask for it, the more we talk about the need for it, the better. You have movies like ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Black Panther’ busting box office records and then suddenly, all of a sudden, the world is like ‘Oh, right, they could be successful.’ The business is sometimes the last one to learn.”


“We seem to work as a pendulum. We swing too far one way, then we find that sweet spot, and then we go too far back and we keep on this swing. But what is going on, which is positive, is that we’re recalibrating our relationships, behaviors and workplace. It’s long overdue and needed, and it’s a good thing.”


“I’ve seen so many changes within my industry, but not just within my industry … I see it at my daughter’s school. I see it in my friends’ places of employment. I see it really everywhere, and it gives me great faith that the world that these girls are growing up in is going to be different than the one that you and I grew up in.”


“I think we have very far to go. I think even in Hollywood there should have been an independent inquiry… There’s a lot of focus about what they say women want and I would say it’s not what we want. It’s what we’d like not to be done to us. Do not limit us to have an education, do not harm us whether it be at war or in our own homes, do not oppress us or try to control us, do not limit our possibilities as human beings and just let us be.”


“There’s this solidarity that is providing women with a chance to start finally telling their own stories and not being used as sort of tools to tell their stories through other people … There are so many untapped resources and ways in which we can inhabit our own stories and repossess our narrative. (It) is fully doable right now and for the first time, like ever, so it is an exciting time for women in film, like, enormously.”


“I think the #MeToo movement has changed a lot, but like a lot of hashtag movements, the problem is that when you do a hashtag or something, people think it’s fixed. But it’s not. It hasn’t really changed anything, because it’s still happening.”


“For me (on movie ‘The Kitchen,’) we had (director) Andrea (Berloff), three female leads, we also had (the) first female (director of photography), and it’s almost one of those things now that’s become natural because these women are the best at what they do, and that’s why they were there and not because they’re women … It’s just becoming more normalized, which I think is the best part of it.”


“Charlize (Theron), Margot (Robbie) and I just did a film – ‘Bombshell’ – which is about instigating change in terms of sexual harassment … We hope that constantly talking about it changes it for the generations to come.”


“Because of Time’s Up, (New York) Governor (Andrew) Cuomo has adopted the Time’s Up safety agenda, which is really, really significant for every woman in New York state. New York is a much less progressive state than California, so when Time’s Up New York got together we thought, ‘What do we address here in our home state?’ And we’ve really been able to make changes (including) extend the statute of limitations on assault.”


“I think there’s been such a seismic shift in awareness in just a year. I think there’s a long way to go but I do think quite a bit has happened already. Already all the conversations I’ve had with women, we just didn’t have those conversations before.”


“I think we’re at the beginning of a movement, and I think we have to keep pushing. You can talk a good game, but you have to wait until it changes, so we’re not there yet. We will be. You’ve got to root for it. I’m a hopeful person. I have two daughters; I have to be. I’ll fight. I’ll fight until I can’t fight anymore.”


“For me, being a young woman in the industry and hearing actresses tell their story and being able to hear those voices and know that it’s OK to speak your truth on things and stand up for what’s right and say no – it’s a great community that has really formed because of this.”


“When we did ‘Cheers,’ … if someone was in the bathroom, someone would kick open the door and we would take pictures, but the intent was in fun. And if the intent is to hold you hostage or not give you a job without sexual favors, you know the difference. But I think that the pendulum swung and now it needs to swing and balance out because people are not all ill-intentioned.”


“I have been quite free, always, in my choices in life. I didn’t need #MeToo to do that, but I think #MeToo’s movement was very important for some people, for some women to speak out.”


“You really shouldn’t be able to get away with inequality anymore. The thing is that you’ve got to keep vocal about it; you’ve got to be vigilant. It’s not something that can ever be really done and dusted until there is equality and everybody’s voice is heard.”


“It’s just good everybody’s aware. I mean, out with the old, right? The old status quo can’t hold. There has to be these evolutionary leaps in what is acceptable.”

(Reporting by Rollo Ross, Alicia Powell, Sarah Mills, Jane Ross and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Special Report: How courts help companies keep sexual misconduct under cover

A Goldman Sachs sign is seen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S

By Dan Levine, Benjamin Lesser and Renee Dudley

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Cristina Chen-Oster, a senior salesperson in Goldman Sachs’s convertible bonds department, was a few years out of MIT when a male colleague pinned her against a wall, kissed her, groped her and tried to engage in a sexual act, she said in a lawsuit in federal court. After reporting the incident to her boss, the lawsuit alleged, she missed out on pay and promotions while her accused attacker steadily rose through the ranks.

Cathy Sellars at her home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, U.S. December 21, 2017.

Cathy Sellars at her home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, U.S. December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger

Cathy Sellars, a 59-year-old mother of two adult children, was training to become a truck driver for freight hauler CRST when she complained to her bosses about repeated sexual harassment by male colleagues, according to a class action lawsuit against the company. Her complaints ignored, she says in court records, she eventually found herself in a truck cab with a male driver who pulled a knife on her after she rebuffed his sexual advances. He then refused to allow her to exit the truck during a trip through the southwest and held her for several hours, she sai

And Sebastian Kelly, a gay driver for an ambulance company in Alabama, said in a lawsuit that he worked in a sexually charged atmosphere, where two male co-workers routinely exposed their genitalia.

News headlines of late have focused on sexual harassment accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, former Today show anchor Matt Lauer, former U.S. Senator Al Franken and other media figures, entertainers and politicians. In each case, the accusers say they waited years to confront the men who accosted them, most of them too ashamed or fearful to complain publicly or persuaded to keep quiet by tactics meant to suppress the truth.

But these three plaintiffs, and many like them, chose to confront their alleged abusers and hold the companies they work for accountable in public court. Rather than opening the incidents to full public scrutiny, however, judges let companies push the legal boundaries of what should be considered confidential and to keep details of abusive behavior secret.

A Reuters review of federal court cases filed between 2006 and 2016 revealed hundreds containing sexual harassment allegations where companies used common civil litigation tactics to keep potentially damning information under wraps. Plaintiffs in some cases say companies sought to conceal internal documents that reveal similar harassment claims, as well as corporate policies that favored abusers over victims.

In one case, plaintiff lawyers collected secret evidence about alleged criminal behavior, including details of a pharmaceutical saleswoman who alleged a doctor sexually assaulted her at a work-related event. Her supervisor admitted to giving a sheriff’s detective false information about the allegations, court records show.


The true number of such cases is likely much greater than the hundreds identified by Reuters. Federal courts categorize sexual harassment within a larger group of gender discrimination claims, which makes a full accounting difficult. In addition, many sexual harassment cases are filed in state courts. Reuters focused its review on the federal courts because records are more accessible and consistent.

As a result of the sealed documents, cases that could shine light on specific abusers, or on toxic corporate cultures, do the opposite: They enable the very secrecy and corporate complicity that allow sexual harassment to persist in the workplace.

Shira Scheindlin, a former Manhattan federal judge, said judges should make public human-resources complaints that result in employee discipline.


Shira Scheindlin, a former Manhattan federal judge, poses for a portrait at her firm's office in New York City, U.S., January 8, 2018. Picture taken January 8, 2018.

Shira Scheindlin, a former Manhattan federal judge, poses for a portrait at her firm’s office in New York City, U.S., January 8, 2018. Picture taken January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“Otherwise, you get the serial abuser just doing it at the next job,” said Scheindlin, who currently heads the American Bar Association’s federal courts subcommittee and whose private practice includes advising companies on handling sexual harassment complaints. “If that record had been available, there would have been no next job.”

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said courts are going too far in routinely sealing such cases. Documents filed in federal court are presumed to be public, he said, so people can understand how the judiciary works. Companies should not be allowed to cloak evidence just because it is damaging, said the judge, based in San Francisco. That goes not only for sexual harassment but also for broader corporate governance issues.

“It’s hard to see why their private interests to avoid embarrassment trumps the public’s right to have access to litigation,” Breyer said.

Companies say they have good reason to seek broad protective orders. They frequently argue that their internal documents contain unproven allegations that shouldn’t be public, or sensitive business information that could aid a competitor. Plaintiff attorneys say they often agree to protective orders and motions to seal information from public disclosure because fighting over public access can increase the length and cost of a lawsuit.

Many judges, meanwhile, are reluctant to enforce transparency when neither side has requested it, according to several current and former federal judges.

“I don’t think any judge is presumptively hostile to the idea of disclosure,” Breyer said. “We may be presumptively hostile to doing more work. I’m speaking for myself.”

Most civil cases settle before they can be publicly aired before a jury. That means the pre-trial secrecy allows companies to permanently conceal information about their sexual harassment policies and how they respond to specific complaints of abuse.

A broad protective order in the ongoing lawsuit by Chen-Oster and three other women against Goldman has allowed the Wall Street giant to keep hundreds of documents under wraps for three years.

Asked about the secrecy, a Goldman spokesperson told Reuters the firm keeps details private because it promises employees confidentiality when they report concerns. The spokesperson would not discuss the specific allegations raised by Chen-Oster and the other plaintiffs.

In court documents, the company acknowledges that Chen-Oster told her boss about the contact with her co-worker and that the supervisor contacted Goldman’s human resources department about it. Chen-Oster, the company says in court filings, did not want to pursue a human resources complaint.

The protective order permitted lawyers on either side to mark any document exchanged in discovery as confidential, thus barring anyone from disclosing it outside the case. Such orders have become standard to ensure secrecy during the pre-trial evidence discovery phase in U.S. civil litigation.

There are no nationwide standards on what information should be sealed when discovery documents are later filed in court. Several federal appeals courts recognize that trade secrets, sensitive financial data, or personal information like Social Security Numbers can remain secret. When it comes to allegations of misconduct, some case law allows information that would intrude on an individual’s privacy to be kept secret. But it is left to judges to decide if someone’s privacy outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure.

Initially, Chen-Oster’s lawyers agreed to the protective order, but later, when they sought to broaden the case, they took the rare step of arguing that many documents filed in court should be made public.

Adam Klein, one of her lawyers, said plaintiff attorneys usually agree to protective orders to gain access to company documents in the first place.

“It’s balancing the interest of the client to get information with the public’s right to know,” Klein said. In Chen-Oster’s case, Klein said, they later pushed to unseal documents in part so that more women working at Goldman who could join the lawsuit would know the details.

The lawyers asked then-U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis IV in Manhattan to certify the lawsuit as a class action to address pay and promotions lost to gender discrimination at Goldman. To support their request, they filed, under seal, nearly 300 internal Goldman documents the company had given them during discovery. Some of those documents, the lawyers alleged, showed that Goldman rewarded men who engaged in sexual misconduct. Because Goldman had asserted confidentiality during discovery, Chen-Oster’s lawyers had to file those documents in secret.

The plaintiffs also secretly filed a chart that logged gender discrimination complaints Goldman female employees made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


The plaintiffs’ first request in 2014 to unseal is itself not public, nor is Goldman’s response. Francis sided with Goldman – though his reasoning is unknown because he also sealed the ruling from disclosure on the public court docket.

In a subsequent filing, Chen-Oster’s lawyers argued that details about Goldman HR investigations should be made public, at least without revealing employee names, because they did not contain the type of trade secrets that legal precedent allows companies to keep confidential.

In response, Goldman attorneys argued the documents should remain secret, arguing many contained hearsay and violated the privacy of people who aren’t parties to the suit. The material had been “selectively culled” from Goldman’s internal personnel files to “sensationalize this proceeding,” Goldman’s lawyers said.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan reaffirmed Francis’s ruling in 2017, saying the sealed materials “include sensitive content about identifiable non-parties.” Because of that, Torres ruled, the plaintiffs’ request to make the material public should wait until after a judge decides whether to let the case proceed as a class action.

That legal question has now been pending for more than three years.

Torres declined to comment. Francis, who recently left the bench, also declined to comment on the Goldman case. But in general, he said, judges often wait to wade into secrecy issues until after they know what evidence will be important in their rulings. That way they have a roadmap to decide which secret court filings are most relevant to the public, he said.

“Making a decision later with more information may be better,” Francis said. “But later may be much later, and that’s problematic.”

Goldman says in court filings that it takes harassment seriously. Out of 12 human-resources cases highlighted by Chen-Oster’s lawyers, Goldman said it had fired five subjects of those complaints and disciplined five. The identities of those employees, however, are not public, leaving other companies unaware of the abusers’ histories.

Chen-Oster and one other plaintiff declined to talk for this article, and the others did not respond to Reuters’ efforts to reach them.


In some cases, companies have persuaded judges to require plaintiffs to keep secret the alleged abusers named in lawsuits, before discovery even begins.

The 2011 claim filed by Sebastian Kelly against his former employer, Regional Paramedical Services Inc of Jasper, Alabama, described a hyper-sexualized environment in which his colleagues allegedly exposed their genitalia regularly and discussed sex in graphic terms. He described one instance in which a colleague told Kelly that he “can’t be gay, you like titties too much.”

That employee’s name, and several others, were blacked out in Kelly’s complaint on the order of Judge James Hancock of the Northern District of Alabama. Hancock ruled that all names of employees who weren’t in supervisory roles, including the human resources director, must be kept secret.

Hancock wrote that allegations against non-supervisory employees are “embarrassing” and that the public’s right to access court records was outweighed by the privacy interests of the employees.

In July 2012, both parties asked the judge to dismiss the case after reaching an out-of-court settlement; the terms weren’t disclosed.

A company spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment. The company denies Kelly’s allegations in court documents. Kelly would not disclose the terms of the settlement.

Because the case did not go to trial, the identities of the accused remain blacked out in Kelly’s lawsuit. The accused are named openly, however, in a complaint Kelly filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Kelly’s lawyers filed the document after Hancock ordered them to submit the EEOC records. Anyone reviewing the filing would find the names of the accused men.

Hancock, who has retired, could not be reached to explain why he did not order the names to be blacked out when the lawyers filed the EEOC complaint.


In the case against CRST Expedited Inc., a large trucking company, secret court filings were compelling enough to persuade Judge Leonard Strand that plaintiffs had grounds to mount a class action alleging widespread systemic abuse against female employees. Yet even with the class certification, the judge continues to keep important details under wraps.

The case, filed in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, centers on the complaints of three women, including Cathy Sellars, the 59-year-old who says she was held at knifepoint after rejecting a coworker’s sexual advances. She said she complained about harassment to her superiors and the human resources department. When she contacted human resources to check on the status of her complaints, she says in her lawsuit, she was told that information was “none of my business.”

After Sellars and the other plaintiffs took CRST to court, their attorneys sought information from the company about how it handled sexual harassment complaints, and how many had been filed. The plaintiffs eventually obtained much of that information.

However, the broad protective order adopted at the beginning of the case – agreed to by both the plaintiffs and the defendants – barred anyone from disclosing that information. The order also forced the plaintiffs to file secretly their motion asking the court for class certification. As a result, all of their allegations of widespread abuse at CRST remained confidential.

Judge Strand granted the plaintiffs’ bid for a class action. In that March order, Strand disclosed some of the sealed material, including the number of female employees – 106 – filing sexual harassment complaints with CRST between October 2013 and February 2016.

But the documents he cited – along with the entire motion he ruled on – still remain under seal.

“The public has a right to know about the gravity of harm in cases like this,” said Giselle Schuetz, an attorney for Sellars. She said she agreed to the sealing, however, because she couldn’t afford to delay the case.

The litigation is pending, and CRST attorney Kevin Visser said he could not discuss the case or any of the specific allegations as a result. The company denied Sellars’ allegations in court documents. Strand did not respond to requests for comment.


Plaintiff attorneys say secrecy orders tie their hands even when apparent criminal acts are uncovered during the pre-trial exchange of information, such as evidence that women were sexually assaulted while doing their jobs.

In one gender discrimination claim that went to trial eight years ago, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis attempted to keep secret evidence that one of its managers had given false information to a sheriff’s detective investigating a sexual assault complaint, court records show.

That attempt came to light when the manager testified during a deposition with the plaintiff’s attorneys before the trial. The attorneys could not disclose the revelation to law enforcement authorities without seeking permission from the company or the judge because the deposition was required to be kept secret under the terms of the protective order.

Novartis tried to keep the details under wraps as the case went to trial. The company’s lawyers argued that the alleged sexual assault and the criminal investigation were irrelevant and would prejudice the jury because the details were “unusually graphic and offensive to any reasonable person.”

The judge rejected that argument, so in April 2010, Novartis sales rep Marjorie Salame told the jury that she was sexually assaulted by a doctor at a work-related golf event.

Salame testified that she had considered herself on a management track and enjoyed a good relationship with her boss when she headed to a country club near Tampa, Florida, in May 2002. At the end of the night, Salame said at an earlier deposition, Dr. Edwin Colon got her alone, lifted her skirt and penetrated her with his fingers.

The next day, Salame told her manager, Joseph Simmons, what had happened. Simmons told the jury he also received a phone call from Colon, who was apologetic but denied culpability, saying he had been drinking. The doctor said the sexual contact with Salame had been consensual, Simmons testified.

Colon declined to discuss the case with Reuters. Simmons also declined to comment.

Salame reported the incident to the sheriff’s office, and investigators interviewed Simmons. The Novartis manager told a detective that the doctor had not said he had been drinking and that Novartis was not investigating the matter, court records state. In fact, Simmons later testified, a human resources employee at Novartis was looking into the complaint, a fact he knew when he talked with the detective.

Salame’s ex-manager testified both in the pre-trial deposition and during the jury trial that he had misinformed the detective about what Colon told him and about Novartis investigating the complaint, though he told the jury he had not deliberately lied.

The doctor was not charged with a crime.

Had Salame’s lawyers wanted to tell law enforcement authorities about Simmons’ pre-trial revelation, they would have had to go through an elaborate process with Novartis and the judge. Nothing on the court docket shows they did so. Katherine Kimpel, who represented Salame and other women against Novartis, declined to comment.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, co-sponsored legislation in 2014 that would have allowed victims to disclose evidence obtained in civil litigation to law enforcement, if it impacts public health or safety. The bill died in committee.

Broad protective orders and motions to seal, Blumenthal said, can often conceal evidence of criminal behavior, allowing abusers to prey on unsuspecting women.

“The present practice sends her on a trail where all of the warning signs about the dangers have been removed, and she’s there vulnerable and alone,” he said.

Salame told Reuters she was too overwhelmed to pursue the matter involving her supervisor after learning he had misled investigators. She did file a civil lawsuit against the doctor, who denied her allegations. Three years ago, both sides agreed to a settlement.

The manager’s testimony was the first time Salame learned what he had done. “It took eight years for it to come out and vindicate me,” Salame said in an interview.

Few sexual harassment cases reach trial, making the Novartis case – and the details disclosed during public testimony – unusual.

The 2010 trial generated weeks of testimony – and headlines – about how the company treated women. The jury eventually ordered Novartis to pay $250 million in punitive damages in the class action. The company later decided to settle the case and pay about $153 million to class members, rather than appeal the jury verdict.

A Novartis spokesman declined to discuss the case with Reuters.

As part of the resolution of the case, the company agreed to internal reforms, including annual training on a new sexual harassment policy and new measures for tracking and investigating complaints. On pay, it agreed to analyze gender discrepancies and to share the results of that analysis with the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

More than three years later, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon congratulated Novartis for successfully complying with the reforms.

Yet even in a case with such transparency, the openness had its limits. The details of Novartis’s compliance efforts were not filed on the court docket and remain secret.

(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco, Benjamin Lesser in New York and Renee Dudley in Boston. Edited by Janet Roberts.)

Hundreds join Hollywood #MeToo march against sexual abuse

People participate in a protest march for survivors of sexual assault and their supporters in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California U.S. November 12, 2017.

By Jane Ross and Laith Agha

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hundreds of people marched in the heart of Hollywood on Sunday to support victims of sexual assault and harassment, inspired by a social media campaign that has portrayed such abuse as a pervasive feature of American life.

The #MeToo march and rally followed a relentless series of accusations by men and women who said they were victimized by high-powered figures in the entertainment industry. But marchers said they also represented men and women who had been sexually abused as children and in other situations.

“I’ve been sexually assaulted multiple times throughout my life,” said marcher Tara McNamarra, 21, of Los Angeles. “It’s affected me in every aspect of my life.”

She said the march was cleansing after years of not being taken seriously about having been abused.

Women made up a majority of the crowd, although men made a strong showing of support.

Steven Murphy, 51, of Los Angeles, said he regularly witnessed sexual harassment while working as an accountant in the healthcare industry.

“I’ve had personal experiences of friends, of co-workers who were harassed, and nothing ever came of it,” Murphy said. “They were made out to be the guilty ones. They were pressured and harassed by the company for speaking out against assault and sexual harassment in the workplace.”

The marchers started at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, walking along the noted “Walk of Fame” until they reached the Los Angeles headquarters of news network CNN at Sunset and Cahuenga Boulevards.

Along the way, participants noted the stars of actors and producers accused of sexual harassment.

The allegations have inspired an online campaign, tagged #MeToo, that has encouraged men and women in all walks of life to reveal their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault, often years after they occurred.

Among the most recent allegations, five women detailed sexual misconduct accusations against Emmy-winning comedian Louis C.K. in The New York Times on Thursday. He admitted to the misconduct alleged against him in a statement on Friday and apologized for his actions.

More than 50 women have said that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them over the past three decades. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone. Reuters has been unable to independently confirm any of the allegations.

Earlier this month, actor Kevin Spacey apologized to actor Anthony Rapp, who had accused him of trying to seduce him in 1986 when Rapp was 14. Spacey’s representatives said later he was seeking treatment.

Eight current and former employees of the Netflix TV show “House of Cards,” who were not identified, also have accused Spacey, the star of the show, of sexual misconduct, CNN has reported.



(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Calif.; Editing by Peter Cooney)