A federal judge has granted a confidentiality order that could shield some documents from the public record in a whistleblower lawsuit against a controversial Maine State Police unit.

It is not immediately clear what the impact of the confidentiality order will be in a case that centers on allegations of secrecy and police surveillance tactics. Such an order is common in lawsuits against government entities because discovery can include documents that are not usually public under the law, including certain employee records. It could prevent those documents from being accessible to the public even if they are attached as exhibits to a motion. But it does not necessarily mean those documents would be confidential at a trial.

The lawsuit itself focuses on an employment dispute. The plaintiff is a state trooper, George Loder, who said his superiors demoted him when he called out the practices at the Maine Information and Analysis Center. But the complaint filed in May includes a myriad of allegations about surveillance of innocent citizens that placed new scrutiny on the state police. Lawmakers have called for more oversight or even suggested that the so-called fusion center should be shut down.

The state has denied those allegations and moved to dismiss most of the trooper’s claims. The parties are still waiting for a ruling on that motion. Meanwhile, the state also asked the judge for the confidentiality order. The Maine Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the state police in this case, argued that the discovery process could include records that would not be public under state law, including personnel records and documents about investigative techniques.

“Defendants anticipate that they may produce and utilize certain records of the State of Maine’s Department of Public Safety which may include investigative techniques, procedures, security plans, or intelligence or investigative record information, which may be deemed confidential by statute or common law,” that motion said.

Loder’s attorney, Cynthia Dill, opposed that motion. She noted that the case “has the attention of the Maine Legislature and the press.”


“In a case that has as a central premise the defendants are keeping information unlawfully secret, they want the court to keep the litigation secret,” she wrote in her response. “The plaintiff has no intention of discovering or offering into evidence anyone’s personnel history except his own and any rights of confidentiality are his to waive if he wishes.”

The judge granted the order. A party can still object to a document being marked as confidential, and the court will resolve those disputes if the parties cannot.

“Nothing in this Order or any action or agreement of a party under this Order limits the Court’s power to make orders concerning the disclosure of documents produced in discovery or at trial,” U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison wrote.

A spokesman said the U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment on the order.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: