Judge allows Bill O'Reilly to hush up his $10M lawsuit against lawyer


Bill O'Reilly has convinced a New York Supreme Court judge to seal a vast amount of court records in his $10 million lawsuit against Michael Klar, an attorney who represented the former Fox News star's ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy.

The television personality, who lost his Fox News job upon attention to $13 million in sexual harassment settlements, is claiming in his suit that Klar aided and abetted McPhilmy in fraudulently inducing O'Reilly to enter into a separation agreement leading to the dissolution of his marriage and then submitting a divorce judgment for execution which incorporated non-consensual terms.

After O'Reilly publicly filed his complaint in December, Klar brought a motion to dismiss with multiple documents from the matrimony case as exhibits. But Klar couldn't do so publicly because O'Reilly insisted all materials were confidential. Divorce records are routinely sealed, but what makes this case somewhat unusual — besides O'Reilly's public stature — is Klar's insistence that he should be allowed public vindication in the face of O'Reilly's publicly lodged accusations of fraud.

Then, Gizmodo Media — formerly known as Gawker Media — intervened with its own arguments. CNN considered doing the same, but got cold feet.

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Bill O'Reilly through the years
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Talk Show Host Bill O'Reilly is seen on October 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Patricia Schlein/Star Max/GC Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0263 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill O'Reilly and host Jimmy Fallon on May 14, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 23: Author Bill O'Reilly attends the 'Killing Jesus' World Premiere at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on March 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 23: (L-R) The cast of Nat Geo's 'Killing Jesus' Haaz Sleiman, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Leonidas, Alexis Rodney, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Joe Doyle, Chris Ryman and Kelsey Grammer pose with 'Killing Jesus' book author, Bill O'Reilly (C) at the red carpet event and world premiere of National Geographic Channel's 'Killing Jesus' at Alice Tully Hall on March 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for National Geographic Channel)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 23: 'Killing Jesus' book author, Bill O'Reilly attends the red carpet event and world premiere of National Geographic Channel's 'Killing Jesus' at Alice Tully Hall on March 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: Bill O'Reilly appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 0142-- Pictured: (l-r) Bill O'Reilly during an interview with host Seth Meyers on December 17, 2014 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Bill O'Reilly (R) interviews Katie Couric during her visit to 'The O'Reilly Factor' at FOX Studios on May 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Rob Lowe talks to host Bill O'Reilly at Fox News' 'The O'Reilly Factor' at Fox News Studios on April 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Bill O'Reilly attends the National Geographic Channel's 'Killing Kennedy' World Premiere at The Newseum on October 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: TV personality Bill O'Reilly enters the 'Late Show With David Letterman' taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14: Television host Bill O'Reilly is seen exiting'Good Morning America' studios on May 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/FilmMagic)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: Bill O'Reilly, host of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, waits for the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama during an event about Obama's 'My Brother's Keeper' initiative in the East Room at the White House February 27, 2014 in Washington, DC. As part of his 'Year of Action,' Obama announced a $200 million commitment from nine foundations to bolster the education and employment of young men and boys of color. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0170 -- Pictured: Author Bill O'Reilly on November 25, 2014 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 18: TV Personality Bill O'Reilly attends An Evening with Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera at 92nd Street Y on June 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 04: Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly attend the game between the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden on November 30, 2014 in New York City.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 18: (L-R) TV Personalites Geraldo Rivera and Bill O'Reilly attend An Evening with Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera at 92nd Street Y on June 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)
TODAY -- Pictured: Bill O'Reilly appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: Bill O'Reilly attends the 11th annual Giants of Broadcasting Honors at Gotham Hall on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
THE VIEW - (10.1.13) Today's guest co-host is Jason Biggs ('Orange is the New Black.') Guests include Bill OReilly (author, Killing Jesus); Matt Long and Lorraine Bruce (ABC's 'Lucky 7') on ABC's 'The View.' 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Fred Lee/ABC via Getty Images) BARBARA WALTERS, BILL O'REILLY
Regis Philbin talks with Bill O'Reilly, of the O'Reilly Report, during the Court TV celebration of it's 10th anniversary at American Park inside Battery Park in New York City on July 18, 2001. photo by Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect
Bill O'Reilly attends the benefit for Homeless Children on November 16, 1989 at Letizia Restaurant in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 4420 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bill O'Reilly during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 1, 2013 -- (Photo by: Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford and Bill O'Reilly appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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"Mr. O'Reilly is a high profile plaintiff who has availed himself of the courts of this state on multiple occasions to pursue cases against his ex-wife — and now against her lawyer — for millions of dollars in damages for fraudulent inducement to enter into a contract," wrote Gizmodo's attorneys. "At the same time, he uses his public platform as a conservative television personality to advocate for what he refers to as 'family values.' There is substantial public interest in understanding how Mr. O'Reilly's personal conduct — which is furthered by his use of the judicial system — diverges from the political, religious or social stances he takes publicity."

In turn, O'Reilly argued that "past media attention has caused his children extreme emotional distress" and that he and his wife had "agreed to strict confidentiality of the terms and circumstances of the Separation Agreement to shield the children from the pressures of unwanted and intrusive publicity surrounding the separation."

Judge Jeffrey Brown thus had to figure out not only whether to keep matrimonial records private, but also to seal documents that referenced these documents. He had to weigh the public interest against privacy (including McPhilmy's) and also heed how records were previously sealed in the divorce case and then affirmed by an appellate court. He was also influenced by the 2014 passage of a New York procedural rule — 22 N.Y.C. R.R. §202.5(e) — aimed at preventing the unnecessary disclosure of confidential personal information.

The judge ultimately decides to seal almost everything while also granting a motion to keep secret "any future motion or pleadings in this action that disclose or refer to such confidential material."

Here's the full order.

The procedural rules may also allow the judge to exclude members of the public — including the press — from future hearings and a trial. It's something that O'Reilly's lawyers could take advantage of when the judge entertains oral arguments about whether to dismiss the case at a hearing later this month. In the meantime, O'Reilly has already become redaction-happy in court filings.

Women who have left FOX News:
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Megan Kelly

(Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images) MEGYN KELLY

Gretchen Carlson

(Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Variety)

Greta van Susteren

(Photo by: William B. Plowman/MSNBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

Andrea Tantaros

(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Laurie Dhue

(Photo by D Dipasupil/WireImage)

Elisabeth Hasselbeck 

(Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)

Alisyn Camerota 

(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

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