Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Government Wants Taped Testimony Back; U.S. Attorney's Office Seeks Naval Hospital Doctors' Depositions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Government Wants Taped Testimony Back; U.S. Attorney's Office Seeks Naval Hospital Doctors' Depositions

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

Three months ago, a lawyer for the family of a woman who died after visiting Jacksonville Naval Hospital gave a local TV station videotaped testimony by four doctors involved in her treatment.

Now the government wants him to get the tapes back.

In an extraordinary request filed in court late Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office asked a judge to order the lawyer to retrieve the tapes within 30 days. The request is part of a 20-page motion that seeks to limit publicity about the family's lawsuit against the hospital at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

"We are very concerned about the release of that information," said Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, which defends U.S. government entities against civil claims.

The motion cites no legal or statutory authority for such an order. Jacksonville media lawyers said they've never encountered a request to force the retrieval of documents that already have been aired or published.

"They're trying to close the barn door after the horse has gotten out," said attorney George Gabel. "Any information obtained by the media in the course of its news-gathering activities is protected by the reporters' privilege, sometimes called the shield law."

Gabel frequently represents the Times-Union and First Coast News, the station at the center of the motion. The Times-Union had previously written about the case and didn't attend the October news conference where the tapes were disseminated.

Ed Birk, another Jacksonville media lawyer, said the request raises questions of prior restraint and ownership.

"If copies were given to the TV station, they presumably become the station's property," Birk said. "The station may or may not be planning to use these depositions again."

The videotaped depositions were given by four doctors who worked at the Navy hospital when Rosario Caoile, 58, visited the emergency room in 2005 complaining of a severe headache and nausea. …

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