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Judge Bars Public from Hearing on Audit of Schneider Medical Center

Nov. 29, 2007 — An ongoing audit of Schneider Regional Medical Center by the V.I. Inspector General's Office made its debut in V.I. Superior Court Thursday, but the hearing was not open to the public.
Instead, Superior Court Judge Michael C. Dunston granted a motion filed by the defense to seal the proceedings and case file. Dunston asked all persons not directly linked to the case to leave the courtroom while he listened to arguments from hospital and V.I. government attorneys on the merits of granting the motion.
After spending about eight hours in the courtroom, Dunston released a written statement to the media, saying that he chose to close off the hearing because some of the information being presented was confidential and part of an ongoing investigation.
"The court did not feel that it was appropriate to permit public discussion of the methods of investigation and evidence collection employed by the Virgin Islands Inspector General, at least with regard to the matter currently before the court," Dunston wrote.
Dunston added that he did not make his ruling without considering the "interests" of the community, and its right to access public documents and proceedings.
"The court has the greatest respect for, and steadfastly supports, the right of the people of the Virgin Islands to have knowledge of, and access to, public proceedings and public documents, as guaranteed them under the Constitution of the United States and the law of the Virgin Islands," he said. "Thus, the court did not make its exclusion ruling without substantial consideration of, and concern for, those interests."
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