There’s no doubt that the public has a deep interest in understanding the origins of the opioid abuse epidemic that continues to spiral out of control and has harmed so many people, especially in Kentucky.
Pike Circuit Judge Steven Combs can shed light on a critical public-health issue and preserve the openness of Kentucky’s courts and public agencies by unsealing court records in the state’s case against Purdue Pharma, the company whose criminally misleading marketing of the painkiller OxyContin has contributed to so much addiction, crime and social dysfunction.
The settlement of Kentucky’s lawsuit againt Purdue Pharma, filed in 2007 by former Attorney General Greg Stumbo, was announced in December just before his successor, Jack Conway, left the AG’s office. Purdue Pharma agreed to pay the state $24 million over eight years.
STAT, a digital publication based in Boston that specializes in reporting on life sciences and medicine, is seeking to open court records that were sealed during the discovery process, including a deposition of Dr. Richard Sackler, a Purdue Pharma board member and former company president who is a member of the family that founded and controls the company.
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The court records also would shed light on how the Office of Attorney General handled the case, also a matter of obvious public interest.
In its opposition to opening the records, Purdue Pharma has offered no reasons, such as protecting trade secrets or personal information, for sealing the documents.
Kentucky’s constitution guarantees open courts, while case law and the state Supreme Court have established a very high bar for hiding court records from public view.
The public’s right to know should trump any protests by Purdue Pharma.
An earlier version of this editorial said Attorney General Jack Conway filed the 2007 lawsuit against Purdue Pharma. Greg Stumbo is the AG who filed the suit.