A federal court in New York is preparing to release more sealed documents in a 2015 defamation suit filed by Virginia Giuffre, a victim of dead sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, against his alleged madam, British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell.
But first, the court will conduct an individualized review of the pleadings that would give attorneys for Maxwell, Giuffre, and mysterious parties identified as John Does 1 and 2, the opportunity to weigh countervailing factors, such as privacy, that would limit public access.
As part of the review process, other secret “non-parties” to the case who are named in the documents—including other alleged victims, and people accused of having sex with Giuffre—will need to be notified ahead of the unsealing and have the option to object. After those objections are filed, legal teams for Maxwell and Giuffre will have a chance to file their own oppositions.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska suggested reviewing the sealed motions in the now-settled case on a rolling basis, in groups of five.
Maxwell’s lawyer, Laura Menninger, told the court that some of the non-parties are “persons of means or otherwise have counsel,” while “others live outside of the country or don’t have means” to enlist counsel to file their objections under seal. Menninger asked for “alternatives” to submit their objections via letter.
Meanwhile, Sigrid McCawley, Giuffre’s attorney, expressed concerns over a document dump that would portray Giuffre in a bad light. She said the only pleadings Maxwell has agreed to unseal are those that “would be negative to my client.”
McCawley said it would be unfair to release those documents—which wouldn’t need review because there’s no countervailing interests—without other sealed court papers that would perhaps paint a fuller picture of the case. But Judge Preska disagreed, saying there would be “no justification to withholding the documents” from the public.
After the proceeding, Menninger ducked into an elevator, avoiding questions from a Daily Beast reporter who asked whether she’d seen or heard from Maxwell. Since Epstein’s arrest in July 2019, Maxwell has disappeared from the public eye.
“Virginia is very pleased that this process is starting and that the court is taking seriously the release of these documents,” McCawley told reporters outside the federal courthouse. “It’s always been her position that there should be public access to these documents as we’ve seen as recently as yesterday in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They filed a complaint outlining this over-20-year history of [Epstein’s] sexual abuse of young females.”
As The Daily Beast reported, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands filed a lawsuit on Wednesday that accuses Epstein and his inner circle of trafficking girls as young as 11 years old, as recently as 2018.
“It’s been Virginia’s mission to expose that abuse, and we’re hopeful that through the court’s review process that will occur and these documents will get released,” McCawley said, adding that the Virgin Islands case highlights that Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls “was going on all over the world, for many, many years.”