from the public-records dept
One of the issues that we’ve discussed quite a bit on Techdirt over the years is the lengths that some people want to go to to hide court records and important public documents. The main story on this past weekend’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver tackled this issue in relation to Richard Sackler, the former chairman and president of Purdue Pharma, the company that developed and promoted Oxycontin. Much of the episode focused on questionable things said or done by Sackler, but towards the end, Oliver notes that Sackler has done an amazing job hiding from public scrutiny. There are very few pictures of him even online and no real videos they could find.
Most of the Sackler family has done its very best to avoid publicly talking about the marketing of Oxycontin, or the astounding mess it has created for the world (though, some members of the family have recently been complaining about guilt by association). However, a few years ago, in a lawsuit over the marketing of Oxycontin, Richard Sackler was forced to give a deposition in the case, which has been held under seal.
Somehow, ProPublica was able to get its hands on the transcript of the deposition and published it back in February. Since then the family has been fighting against the release of the actual video recording of Sackler’s deposition. There is tremendous public interest in this as Oliver explains in the video above, and ProPublica wrote about upon the release of the document:
As part of the settlement, the Kentucky attorney general agreed to destroy its copies of 17 million pages of documents produced during the eight-year legal battle with Purdue. But some of the same documents remained in a sealed file in a rural eastern Kentucky courthouse. STAT filed a motion in 2016 asking the judge in that case to make the documents public, and he ordered the unsealing of those documents, including the Sackler deposition.
?The court sees no higher value than the public (via the media) having access to these discovery materials so that the public can see the facts for themselves,? Pike Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs ruled in May 2016.
Purdue appealed the ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which upheld it in December 2018. The company then asked the state Supreme Court to review that decision.
ProPublica also notes that this “is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned under oath about the illegal marketing of OxyContin and what family members knew about it.” That’s why the transcript is so important.
However, as Oliver notes, the Sacklers have continued to fight the release of the video and various other documents related to the case — so to “help out,” he brought together a group of talented actors to act out parts of the deposition and put them up on the website SacklerGallery.com — a nod to the fact that the Sacklers have been getting lots of museums to name galleries and wings and other things after them. The actors include Bryan Cranston, Michael Keaton, Richard Kind, and Michael K. Williams. I’ll leave it to John Oliver in the video above to explain why each of them are used, because it’s truly wonderful.