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Newspapers join fight to unseal Durham records

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The Indianapolis Business Journal and The Wall Street Journal have joined the legal fight to unseal search-warrant documents related to the federal investigation of businessman Tim Durham and Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance Co. The IBJ is a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer.

Akron Beacon Journal and The Indianapolis Star launched the effort in mid-December. This week, an Akron attorney filed an amended motion in federal courts in Indiana and Ohio bringing in the additional newspapers. The filing seeks unsealing in part because of "intense community and national interest."

The probe has been public since Nov. 24, when FBI agents executed search warrants at Durham's Indianapolis office and at Fair's headquarters. Agents hauled away computer equipment and bankers boxes full of documents. Investigators have refused to provide information about the warrants, saying they are sealed.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Indianapolis has not filed a response to the original motion to unseal. Timothy Morrison, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, would not comment today about what position his office will take.

Court papers filed by Morrison's office Nov. 24 allege Fair operated as a Ponzi scheme, using money from new investors to pay what it owed prior investors, thereby "lulling the earlier victims into believing that their money was being [handled] responsibly."

The raids occurred one month after IBJ published an investigative story that raised questions about whether Fair Finance had the financial wherewithal to repay Ohio investors who had purchased nearly $200 million in investment certificates.

The story reported that, since Durham bought the consumer-loan business in 2002, he had used it almost like a personal bank to fund a range of business interests, some of them unsuccessful. The story noted that he and related parties owe Fair more than $168 million.

In the amended motion to unseal, Karen Lefton, an attorney for Brouse McDowell in Akron, argued that keeping the records sealed violates the newspapers' common law right to access judicial records, as well as their First Amendment rights.

"It is highly unlikely the government would be able to meet its burden of showing that sealing is essential to preserving the integrity of its ongoing investigation," the motion says.

"In addition, all the principal parties - Mr. Durham, his companies' leaders, the prosecutor - already know the contents of those file cabinets and computers that were seized from Fair Finance. Indeed, it seems that by sealing the search warrant documents, that information is being withheld only from those for whom it is most important - the public and innocent investors who now must undertake recovery on their own."

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  1. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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