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Pretrial Battles in Laxalt Libel Case Continue

December 6, 1985

RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Attorneys for U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt asked a court for help in plugging leaks to the media which they say are creating unfair publicity in his $250 million libel suit against a California newspaper group.

Laxalt, R-Nev., sued McClatchy Newspapers over a 1983 article which said the Internal Revenue Service had evidence that skimming occurred at a Carson City casino while the Laxalt family owned it in the early 1970s.

Skimming is the illegal diversion of casino profits before taxes are collected.

Laxalt’s attorneys also asked McClatchy representatives to say whether they were reponsible for recent news leaks and requested that U.S. District Court require a response within five days instead of the usual 30 days, arguing quick action was needed to prevent further leaks.

Copies of Laxalt’s deposition in the case were obtained last week by some news organizations.

″The release of private discovery material and information must be tracked down″ to ensure a fair trial, the attorneys argued Thursday.

They said the publicity has made a fair trial more difficult and Laxalt ″is defenseless to stop the harm from this unfair publicity without the court’s intervention.″

McClatchy attorney Linda Shostak did not return a telephone call seeking comment made to her office Thursday.

Laxalt attorney Richard Davenport said Thursday if it were discovered that McClatchy attorneys provided the information, then the court may be asked to establish guidelines governing release of future discovery material. Discovery is a process in which parties gather information from their opponents in a case.

″These discovery materials were meant to be used in preparing for an impartial trial, not as a springboard for tampering with the minds of the jury and obstructing the goal of evenhanded justice in a federal court,″ said Davenport, saying there is no First Amendment right to access to such materials.

Davenport also contended that if the leaks are tied to McClatchy attorneys, then the news organization could be stripped of its protection under the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires a public official in a libel case prove actual malice on the part of the news organization.

He would not expand on legal precedent for such action.

To prove actual malice, a complainant must prove that information was printed with knowledge it was false or with ″reckless disregard″ for whether it was true or false.

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