Courts Allow Order Requiring Journalists to Sign Secrecy Agreement
A federal judge in Dallas refused on Jan. 10 to stop a trial judge from forcing spectators to a civil trial between two corporations to choose between leavingthe courtroom during certain portions of the trial or agreeing not to disclose information that they hear or see.
Federal District Court judge A. Joe Fish denied a request from Bloomberg News Service to temporarily restrain the enforcement of the orders of state trial judge David Evans, which had been allowed to stand by the Texas Supreme Court. Evans' Nov. 15 orders state that members of the public who want to stay in the courtroom when certain exhibits, or the contents and subject matter of those exhibits, are discussed must sign a "Courtroom Spectator Confidentiality Order and Undertaking."
DSC Communications Dallas in 1996 after Samsung Electronics in a state engineers away from court in DSC alleged in 1996 after that sung hired nine engineers away from DSC. DSC alleged in its lawsuit that Samsung was hiring the engineers as a way to steal DSC's digital-switching technology. While the lawsuit was pending, DSC was purchased by Alcatel, which pressed forward with the legal action. Alcatel demanded $425 million in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount in punitive damages from Samsung.
Alcatel alleged that trade secrets might be introduced during trial and requested that the trial court take measures to protect those trade secrets. The Dallas Morning News intervened and argued against closing the courtroom, but trial Judge David Evans signed three orders on Nov. 15 that limited court access in the case.
The orders sealed a portion of the record; closed the courtroom to memhers of the public during certain portions of the trial if they refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement; and required certain parties or party representatives to sign a nondisclosure agreement before being allowed to see certain documents produced under prior confidentiality orders. The orders also stated that certain exhibits constituted "probable trade secrets." Any spectator who signed and then violated the confidentiality order faced contempt of court charges and a possible civil suit for misappropriation of trade secrets.
Samsung appealed these orders to the Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas, a state intermediate appellate court. …