The U.S. solicitor general has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing review of gag orders barring a lawyer from disclosing sealed records related to a government informant. Frederick Oberlander of Long Island, who attached sealed records to a civil racketeering lawsuit he filed three years ago in the Southern District, claims he has a First Amendment right to divulge information about Felix Sater. Sater’s 1998 securities fraud conviction was sealed when he agreed to assist investigators in matters apparently involving national security.
Oberlander is representing the plaintiffs in Kriss v. Bay Rock Group, 10-cv-3959, who claim they were duped into investing with Sater, a convicted felon, because the government sealed his record as part of the 1998 cooperation agreement. But after attaching Sater’s cooperation agreement and probation report to the complaint, Oberlander was hit with a series of gag orders. Oberlander and his attorney, Richard Lerner, are also under investigation for criminal and civil contempt.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the gag and sealing orders, prompting Oberlander and Lerner to seek review in Washington. The high court asked the solicitor general to respond. In its response submitted last week, the solicitor general argues it is well settled that Oberlander has no First Amendment right to divulge sealed documents. "The lower courts’ determination that [Oberlander], an attorney, had knowingly violated a court order differentiates him from a member of the press who acquires material from a source acting independently." Oberalander and Lerner are expected to submit a response to the government’s brief next week.