Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Katz avoids media fight; unseals divorce records

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MAYOR Sam Katz has avoided a legal battle with the Winnipeg Free Press and CBC Manitoba by asking his lawyers to unseal the court records in his divorce proceedings.

Katz is in the process of getting divorced from Baillie Burke, his wife of eight years. Last week, a Court of Queen's Bench justice ordered details of the case to be kept off the public record. But after lawyers from the Free Press and CBC held informal conversations with Katz's counsel, the mayor decided to ask his lawyers to unseal the records.

With details of the divorce about to go public, Katz took the unusual step of holding a press conference to appeal for privacy.

"I have the fullest respect for the media and its importance to a free and democratic society," Katz said Tuesday afternoon, explaining he had no wish to complicate his own divorce with a legal battle with the Free Press and CBC.

"I am putting my trust and faith in the media to respect my privacy in the interest of my children and I remain hopeful no publications will be made that will in any way impact the lives of my children."

Katz and Burke have two daughters, aged five and 20 months. Katz said on Tuesday that some media outlets have not treated his family well since his divorce proceedings began in late October.

The Free Press and the CBC are not among those media outlets, a spokesman for Katz said.

Free Press editor Bob Cox said the newspaper has no interest in publishing anything that would harm the mayor's family, but welcomes Katz's decision to unseal the divorce documents.

"We opposed the sealing order not because we wanted to publish something inappropriate, but because we felt the order itself was inappropriate," Cox said.

"It appeared the mayor got special treatment because of his position. Few people get this kind of order when they're getting a divorce. It's a very difficult order to get, and there was no justification.

"We wanted to see the order justified, if it was going to stand. We're happy that the mayor allowed the information to be public in the same way every other divorce case is public in Manitoba."

The Free Press may still report about certain aspects of the Katz divorce, Cox added.

"We will, as part of our function as a newspaper, examine what's in the file and make decisions as to what may or may not merit coverage," he said. "There may be relevant information that the public deserves to know."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2006 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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