Speaker volume: Judge dials down public access to Madigan deposition

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House Speaker Mike Madigan listens to a reporter’s question at a news conference in Springfield last year. File Photo.

A federal judge on Monday ordered lawyers to remove the deposition of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and others from a publicly accessible court web site.

The order stems from a federal lawsuit filed by Jason Gonzales, a former Madigan political rival, who contends the head of the Democratic Party of Illinois planted two “sham” candidates in the race to split the opposition vote. Gonzales’ lawyers have tried to dissect Madigan’s political operations in the matter.

Gonzales’ lawyers released Madigan’s deposition to reporters last week, and a day later they posted it and others taken in the case on a terminal used to access documents in federal cases. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly called that a no-no in court on Monday, while questioning whether lawyers released the information in light of a Sun-Times story that revealed Madigan had been recorded by the FBI in his private law office: “You couldn’t miss it,” Kennelly said of the Page One Madigan story.

Stephen Boulton, an attorney representing Gonzales, said the depositions were posted because lawyers were being “intensely deluged” by media outlets. The Sun-Times had repeatedly requested the Madigan deposition since September, but only was given a transcript on Thursday — two days after the FBI story was printed.

Sean Sullivan, a lawyer for Shaw Decremer, a former Madigan lieutenant, told the judge there were personal addresses and e-mail addresses in his client’s deposition, and said the defense lawyers were not given any prior notice that they would be filed.

The judge cited a rule that prohibited the public filing of depositions during the discovery phase of a trial.

Boulton argued the public should have had access to the depositions, especially Madigan’s.

“Those requests from the press, and I don’t want to be overly saccharine about it, but they are a free people asking through the free press what is the evidence regarding politicians holding the second most powerful office in the state and is, by many accounts, is the most powerful politician in the state,” Boulton told Kennelly.

But Kennelly argued attorneys could have given out the depositions and avoided posting them on the terminal. The depositions of nine defendants, including Madigan, were no longer publicly accessible just after the court hearing.

The lengthy deposition was the very first for the 76-year-old political power broker. Madigan answered questions for more than five hours about everything from whether he goes to church to his relationship with Ald. Ed Burke to his own “philosophy” on separating politics from government. Madigan answered many questions with versions of “I do not remember,” or “I do not recall,” which is common in depositions. In another deposition, a Madigan political operative testified that he drove the nominating petitions for two candidates down to Springfield.

Many viewed the posting of the depositions as a strategic decision that suggested that the main goal of the plaintiffs was to depose the most powerful politician in the state — and not to necessarily see the suit make it to trial.

“I think part of what’s going on here is that the practices of the Chicago machine are being revealed and are being exposed and that’s a good thing,” Boulton told the Sun-Times. “An informed public is a good democracy.”

Media attention to Gonzales’ suit could lead to publicity for another federal suit filed by David Krupa, a 19-year-old DePaul University freshman who is trying to unseat Ald. Marty Quinn (13th). Gonzales’ attorney Tony Peraica is representing Krupa in the suit against Madigan and Quinn. And in announcing the Krupa suit, Peraica tied it to Gonzales’ suit.

The Krupa suit accuses Quinn and Madigan of using fraud and intimidation to try to muscle the political newcomer off the ballot. In an emailed statement, Madigan branded the suit a “blatant defamation of me and Ald. Quinn.” The speaker said Chicago voters have “seen this highly political tactic before.”

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FBI secretly recorded Mike Madigan at his law office pitching firm’s services

No ‘skullduggery,’ lawyers vow after judge OKs scrutiny of Madigan’s HQ

Madigan foe wants to ‘inspect’ and ‘photograph’ powerful Dem’s SW Side HQ

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