Dec 4, 2015

Attorney reprimanded for making confidential information about Cody police officer public

A Jackson attorney has been reprimanded for accidentally releasing confidential information about a former Cody police officer.

John Robinson of Jamieson Robinson LLC is representing a North Dakota man who claims then-Assistant Cody Police Chief George Menig violated his civil rights during a 2010 search.

The first page of Judge Rankin's order, sanctioning Robinson.
Robinson filed a report from a police practices expert in September to support Juan P. Flores’ allegations against Menig. In addition to offering the opinion that Menig acted inappropriately, the report cited information from Menig’s personnel file. That included a description of how the city of Cody investigated and disciplined Menig in connection with the 2010 search of Flores.

In part because it was the first public recounting of the city’s internal (and confidential) investigation on the incident, the Powell Tribune/Cody News Company wrote about the expert’s report. Other media outlets then picked up the story.

The problem for those involved with the case, however, is the information from Menig’s personnel file was not supposed to become public; the city had provided the documents about the internal investigation under a protective order that required them to stay confidential.

After the stories were published, lawyers for the city of Cody and the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office (which is representing Menig) asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin to sanction Robinson for allowing the information to become public. They said Meing’s reputation and his chance at a fair trail had been harmed.

Judge Rankin reprimanded Robinson at a court hearing conducted over the phone last week.

“No facts suggest (Robinson) intentionally violated the protective order in an attempt to harm (Menig),” Rankin wrote in an order after the hearing. “However, the Court also acknowledges the potential harm and embarrassment created by the published articles as confidential information about (Menig) was made public.”

In limiting the punishment to an oral reprimand, Rankin described the prejudice to Menig as “slight.” The magistrate also said Robinson took “responsibility for his actions and acted immediately to rectify his mistake.”

Robinson had the document sealed after the Tribune’s Oct. 1 story was brought to his attention by one of Menig’s attorneys. Robinson also contacted the Tribune on Oct. 5 to ask that the paper not pass its copy of the document along to others or delete it.

In his Nov. 24 order, Magistrate Rankin reminded Robinson to follow the rules and said to be more cautious when filing documents in the future.

The expert’s report was available as a public court record for about 11 days.


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