FRANKFORT — A judge allowed two media outlets Wednesday to intervene in a sexual harassment case against a former state lawmaker but delayed deciding whether depositions in the case should be unsealed.
An initial order signed by Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate said he had turned down requests to permanently seal the depositions of state Rep. Sannie Overly, who is running for lieutenant governor, and former Legislative Research Commission director Bobby Sherman in a sexual harassment case against former state Rep. John Arnold. It also said The Courier-Journal and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting could intervene in the lawsuit, arguing that the public has a right to inspect court records in the case.
But a few hours later, an order signed by the judge said the court "inadvertently signed" a proposed order presented by The Courier-Journal without modification.
It said: "To clarify, the motions of Defendant Bobby Sherman and Sannie Overly to seal and/or limit the use of their depositions are not denied."
The new order said the issue of whether to unseal the depositions "has been held in abeyance."
Wingate temporarily sealed all testimony in the case earlier this month at the request of Overly's attorney.
Thomas Clay, a Louisville attorney for two women who initiated the harassment case against Arnold, said he plans to make the depositions public if the judge allows him to do so.
He said Sherman was deposed for five to six hours last week, but Overly's deposition has not yet occurred.
Clay has said he wants to ask Overly about any sexual harassment she might have experienced in the legislature
Overly's attorney, Anita M. Britton of Lexington, and Sherman's attorney, William G. Crabtree of London, were not immediately available for comment.
Overly, a Democrat from Paris and chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, is running for the state's No. 2 public office on a gubernatorial ticket with Attorney General Jack Conway. She asked the court earlier this month to stop Clay from disseminating a video and transcript of her deposition "to the media or to anyone outside of the pending litigation."
She said a court order could protect a person "from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, undue burden or expense."
Overly also said Clay has a history of disseminating depositions to blog writers.
Clay is representing two women — Yolanda Costner and Cassaundra Cooper — who filed a sexual harassment suit in 2013 against Arnold, D-Sturgis. Arnold has denied any wrongdoing, and the case is pending.
Both Costner and Cooper were legislative staffers at the time. Costner was fired in January, when Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, was voted by his colleagues to replace Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, as House majority whip.
Clay also is representing legislative staffer Nicole Cusic, who has sued state Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, alleging that he took steps that led to her transfer after she accused him of "inappropriate conduct" toward female staffers and interns in 2012.
Coursey has denied any wrongdoing and has filed a defamation lawsuit against Cusic in Marshall Circuit Court.