\nGEORGIA – The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in March that the\npublic will not have access to a confidential 1996 settlement\nagreement between the Savannah College of Art and Design and the\nSchool of Visual Arts.
The settlement under debate was reached in 1996 after Savannah\nCollege sued the School of Visual Arts for conspiracy to harm\nthe college by illegal means. One condition of the agreement bound\nboth parties to maintain complete confidentiality about the terms\nof the settlement.
When the School of Visual Arts announced four days after the\nsettlement was reached that it would be closing, the Savannah\nMorning News reported that the school’s closure was a term\nof the settlement. Savannah College alleged that the School of\nVisual Arts was the source of the media leak.
Savannah College filed a motion in superior court to compel\nthe reporters to reveal their sources. With the motion, the college\nincluded a copy of the confidential settlement, marked “filed\nunder seal,” as evidence. The newspaper then filed a motion\nto unseal the document, arguing that the agreement could no longer\nbe considered confidential because the college had presented them\nto the clerk as “filed under seal” without first obtaining\na written court order.
The superior court had ruled in favor of the newspaper, reasoning\nthat unsealing the settlement may never have been an issue had\nthe college not tried to compel the reporters to reveal their\nsources.
The Georgia Supreme Court, however, reversed this decision\nand ruled that the college’s privacy interests outweighed the\npublic’s right to know the terms of the settlement. The court\ndid not rule on whether or not the reporters should be compelled\nto reveal their sources–that issue is still awaiting a decision\nfrom the trial court.\n