The complaining Coral Resorts timeshare owners allege they were "misled by salespeople and signed contracts that did not reflect what they were told when they bought their units." But the public knows without needing a lawyer that written agreements prevail if they contain a disclaimer clause excluding oral representations. Have there been any complaints that the written contracts were ambiguous or misleading?
Also, if the sealed S. C. Real Estate Commission transcript was disseminated by the lawyers who received an unauthorized copy, it should be dealt with seriously. It affects the public's perception of the ethical standards of its local lawyers.
Whether to seal records presents our judges with the difficult task of balancing the public's right to know with protecting the rights of litigants. The preliminary litigation stage consists of affidavits and documents that may include confidential/proprietary interests or pure exaggeration. Routine public disclosure without cross examination can distort the truth and cause irreparable harm, whereas during a public trial, the pursuit of truth is sought through cross examination.
Matrimonial and family court rules in South Carolina -- that currently require full disclosure of couples' dirty laundry absent a good reason to seal the record or close the courtroom -- should be changed. Competing allegations by spouses are often exaggerated and unfounded. They may unfairly damage reputations and affect children.
Family matters should rarely be shared with the public. They serve no public interest.
Albert J. Emanuelli
Hilton Head Island