Court approves confidentiality in Vance Phillips case

Financial, medical records to be kept under wraps
October 15, 2013

Many of Sussex County Councilman Vance Phillips’ financial and medical records will be kept out of the public eye, a court commissioner has ordered.

Attorneys for Phillips requested a confidentiality order in a case involving Katelynn Breana Dunlap, who has accused Phillips of sexual assault and rape and is seeking financial compensation.

Superior Court Commissioner Andrea Freud granted a motion Oct. 10 that allows some evidence to remain confidential, including certain documents, testimony, exhibits and transcripts.

“Any producing party may designate discovery material as confidential under the terms of this order if such party in good faith believes that such discovery material contains nonpublic, confidential, personal, medical, familial, proprietary or financially sensitive information that requires protections provided in this order,” Freud wrote.

Dunlap filed a civil lawsuit against Phillips May 6, accusing him of assault, battery, infliction of emotional distress and rape.  In her complaint, Dunlap said Phillips violently assaulted her on several occasions from May to July 2011.

In his July 15 answer, Phillips declined to respond to any of Dunlap’s claims, citing the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  He admitted only that he met Dunlap when she was 16 and encouraged her to work on a political campaign.

Phillips’ attorney, Melissa Donimirski, entered a Sept. 25 motion for confidentiality.  In the motion, Donimirski asked the court to keep Phillips’ financial and medical records out of the public eye, including Phillips’ tax returns and proof of property he owns.

“Despite plaintiff’s claims, the mere fact that defendant has been sued should not require him to open his financial and business information to the public, particularly where plaintiff’s intent appears to be to embarrass defendant, a public official, and try this case in the press,” Donimirski wrote.

Dunlap’s attorneys, Nicholas Rodriguez and Brian Brittingham, sent an Oct. 3 letter to Freud opposing the confidentiality motion.

Rodriguez and Brittingham said the parties in the case could consider whether individual documents should be marked confidential, but they said it would be difficult to understand and comply with a confidentiality order.

Dunlap’s attorneys admitted the case has garnered wide public interest, but, they said, they have not spoken to the press and have abided by the rules of professional conduct.

“The same was not true on the part of the defendant whose attorney made direct statements to the press indicating that the case was a sham and filed merely to collect money,” Rodriguez and Brittingham wrote.

Joe Hurley, who is also representing Phillips, told the Cape Gazette in May that Dunlap’s attorneys made an extremely high demand in an attempt to settle the case.  “They thought they could get a lot of money out of this,” Hurley said.

Rodriguez and Brittingham had sought a confidentiality order to protect only materials provided by the Attorney General’s Office.   “If there is a disagreement between the parties about what should be marked as confidential…this could be taken up with the court at a later date,” Dunlap’s attorneys wrote.

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