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Judge shields baseball documents from public view

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- The public won't get to look at internal baseball memos and financial documents collected during a lawsuit that spared the Minnesota Twins from elimination, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Hennepin County District Judge Harry Seymour Crump ordered the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to destroy or return all materials the Twins turned over during the now-settled lawsuit. Crump denied requests from several media organizations to obtain the material under the Minnesota Data Practices Act.

In a brief order, the judge did not explain his ruling.

The documents reportedly include materials related to baseball's contraction plan and others dealing with ties between the Twins' Carl Pohlad and other team owners.

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The Twins stamped virtually every document confidential before providing it to the stadium commission.

The commission gathered the material as part of a lawsuit that sought to block Major League Baseball from eliminating the Minnesota franchise. The sides reached a settlement last month that preserves the team through 2003.

But the Associated Press, Star Tribune of Minneapolis, St. Paul Pioneer Press and KARE-TV told Crump on June 26 that the settlement didn't address their request to see the roughly 9,000 documents and that the information should be accessible because it flowed through a public agency.

All of the media organizations except the Pioneer Press have sued the stadium commission separately for information related to the contraction case. They asked Crump to order the commission to keep all disputed documents until that case is resolved. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently joined the lawsuit.

"If the commission no longer has them, a determination that they are public may be harder to enforce," John Borger, one of the media attorneys, said Wednesday.

Borger hadn't discussed the ruling with his clients, but said an appeal is possible.

Roger Magnuson, the Twins attorney, was unavailable for comment, a secretary said.

At the hearing on June 26, attorneys for the Twins and the league argued that the materials should be returned to them under a prior agreement that spelled out how the information would be handled if produced. Allowing the public to see so-called discovery documents would undermine the willingness of parties to willfully trade information in court cases, they said.

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The stadium commission took no stand on the media's request for access, saying only that it was torn between its obligations under the Data Practices Act and the agreement it had made with the Twins. Attorneys for the commission reserved comment until consulting with the public board.

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