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Judge: Why should Butler man's records case be sealed?

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A federal judge on Friday ordered lawyers for a Butler County man and the state police to explain why a lawsuit regarding a records error that is preventing him from buying a hunting rifle should remain secret.

Jeffrey L. Burtner, 54, of Butler claims state police refused to remove an error in the agency's records that prevented him from buying a hunting rifle on May 24, 2012. State police incorrectly reported that Burtner was involuntarily committed to Butler Memorial Hospital in 1992, the lawsuit claims.

Both sides have asked that the entire case be sealed, not only medical and mental health records and other personal information.

The Tribune-Review this week intervened in a court action to keep the case from being hidden from public scrutiny, including its outcome and any possible settlement.

“The parties are to address the presumption of public access and the ‘good cause' factors,” U.S. District Judge Maureen Kelly wrote in her order. “The parties are further directed to address why the entry of a protective order would not sufficiently protect the confidentiality of any medical and treatment records.”

Both sides have a week to respond.

Trib lawyer Ronald Barber said the judge's action reflects a balanced approach to resolving the issue.

“The court wants the parties to focus on the overall presumption that courts are open,” Barber said, “and on the fact that there are specific tools available to protect specific information that should remain private.”

Lawyers for Burtner and the state police did not respond to requests for comment.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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