Judge OKs release of Romney divorce case testimony

Associated Press
CORRECTS NAME TO MAUREEN SULLIVAN STEMBERG, NOT MAUREEN STEMBERG SULLIVAN - Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, left, ex-wife of Staples founder Tom Stemberg, and her lawyer Gloria Allred, stand in Norfolk County Probate Court Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Canton, Mass. Lawyers for The Boston Globe are to return to court Thursday to argue for the public release of testimony given by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the divorce of Stemberg.  (AP Photo/Mark Garfinkel. pool)
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CANTON, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts judge on Thursday granted a request to unseal testimony by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the decades-old divorce of Staples founder Tom Stemberg.

Lawyers for The Boston Globe sought release of the testimony, arguing that the public has the right to know the contents because Stemberg has been a prominent spokesman for Romney's qualifications for the presidency and has cited Romney's role in Staples' success. The office supply company was founded with backing from Romney's firm, Bain Capital.

Stemberg's ex-wife, Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, supported the Globe's request.

The transcripts were not immediately released Thursday; lawyers said they were still reviewing them.

The Globe also had sought a modification of a confidentiality order prohibiting either side from discussing any aspect of their divorce proceeding, including Romney's testimony, but dropped that request after lawyers for Tom Stemberg said they did not object to Romney's testimony being released.

During a hearing in Norfolk Probate and Family Court, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing Stemberg's former wife, became incensed that the Globe was no longer seeking to lift the gag order. She said Stemberg's ex-wife wants to give the public her opinion of Romney, but can't unless the order is lifted.

"I think voters have a right to know everything about Gov. Romney," Allred said. Without the "context" Sullivan Stemberg can provide, Allred said the transcripts will be "essentially meaningless to the public."

Globe Editor Martin Baron said the paper had no reason to object to getting the transcripts without lifting the gag order.

"The Globe's only interest all along, as should have been clear to all parties, was to obtain the transcript of a presidential candidate's testimony. We wanted to read it to see what was there, following standard practice in covering a major election," Baron said in a statement.

Romney's lawyer, Robert Jones, has said the transcripts include Romney's testimony about the value of Staples in 1991.

Maureen Sullivan Stemberg sued her husband in 1990, arguing that he had failed to reveal the true value of Staples stock in their property settlement agreement.

Allred said after the hearing that she planned to file a request as early as next week to lift the gag order.

Outside court, Allred referred to Tom Stemberg's "glowing" speech about Romney at the Republican National Convention and mockingly referred to him as "almost a BFF" of Romney's. In response to a reporter's question, Allred acknowledged being a supporter of President Barack Obama but said she is "not a surrogate for the Democratic Party."

George Regan Jr., a spokesman for Tom Stemberg, said in a statement that he was pleased that the gag order remained intact. He said the case is a private family matter that "has nothing to do with Gov. Romney."

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