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Butler County man's lawyer says sealing case only way to protect privacy

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 1:36 p.m.

The lawyer for a Butler County man suing the Pennsylvania State Police said in a court document filed on Wednesday that the only way to protect his client's privacy is to seal the case.

Jeffrey L. Burtner, 54, of Butler is suing the state police because the agency refused to remove an error in its records that blocked his purchase of a hunting rifle on May 24, 2012.

His attorney, Joshua Prince, wants U.S. Magistrate Maureen Kelly to deny the Tribune-Review's motion to intervene in the case so it can argue against removing the entire case from public view.

“But for a clerical error requiring judicial involvement, Mr. Burtner's medical information would be completely insulated from the prying eyes of the media,” Prince said in opposing the Trib's motion. “Merely stepping forward to defend his constitutional and statutory rights to own a firearm should not open up his medical files to public scrutiny. However, if the record is not sealed, that is precisely the result.”

Ron Barber, the Trib's lawyer, said the newspaper agrees that Burtner's medical records should be private but disagrees that the only way to do that is to seal the entire case.

The judge can look at each document and determine which should be kept under seal while keeping the proceeding open so the public can follow a case that, by Burtner's assertion, involves a state agency refusing to correct a clerical error that blocks his constitutional right to buy firearms, Barber said.

“We aren't arguing for anything more than that,” Barber said.

The state hasn't filed its response to the Trib's motion.

Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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