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Posted: 10/6/2004 8:13:42 AM EDT
Saw this on Drudge;


Court: Limbaugh's medical records properly seized

Associated Press Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A state appeals court ruled Wednesday that Rush Limbaugh's medical records were properly seized by investigators seeking information on alleged illegal drug use.

Investigators raided the offices of Limbaugh's doctors last November seeking information on whether the conservative radio commentator illegally tried to buy prescription painkillers. Limbaugh, 53, has not been charged with a crime and the investigation had been at a standstill pending a decision on the medical records.

"The state's authority to seize such records by a validly issued search warrant is not affected by any right of privacy in such records," a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled. Chief Judge Gary M. Farmer wrote the opinion and Judge Carol Y. Taylor concurred. Judge Melanie G. May concurred in part.

A spokesman for Limbaugh did not have any immediate comment.

Prosecutors went after Limbaugh's medical records after learning that he received about 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion.

Limbaugh admitted his addiction to pain medication last October, saying it stemmed from severe back pain. He took a five-week leave from his afternoon radio show to enter a rehabilitation program.

State Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat who's been accused by Limbaugh of having political motivations in the case, said the appellate ruling validates the investigation and will allow the case to move forward.

"This office did not violate any of Mr. Limbaugh's constitutional rights, but to the contrary acted in accord with Florida law," Krischer said.

Limbaugh's attorney argued that investigators should have provided some notice they were going to seize records containing private information, but instead used search warrants and gave Limbaugh no chance to challenge the seizure.

"The Legislature said you can't do a wholesale seizure and hope to find evidence of a crime," attorney Roy Black said before the appellate court in April. "You'd have to stand privacy on its head."

But prosecutors insist that giving notice would have limited their ability to investigate allegations that Limbaugh illegally "doctor shopped" to obtain pain pills, a practice that refers to visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions of controlled narcotics. Prosecutor James Martz said the Legislature has protected law enforcement's ability to conduct criminal investigations.

At an April hearing, the appellate judges questioned prosecutors on their blanket seizure of records, asking why the search warrants were not more narrowly drafted to seize only those records relating to the doctor-shopping allegations.

Judge May partly dissented in the ruling, arguing the case should be returned to the trial court to "determine the relevancy of the records seized and to whom, if anyone, those records may be 'disclosed.'"

"The simple fact remains — our Legislature has mandated greater protection for a person's medical records than other types of property," May wrote.


October 6, 2004 - 8:48 a.m. PDT

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