Cynthia Dizikes and Todd Lighty discuss their investigative story on how Cook County judges seal cases, including those involving a fellow judge, rich Chicago families, and a prominent Chicago athlete. (Posted Feb. 24, 2013)

Suit against NU sealed

The Northwestern undergraduate student who in January 2007 accused a male student of raping her on campus sued the school for allegedly mishandling the internal disciplinary case.

The Tribune obtained a copy of the suit through a commercial database that provides online access to some court records. The Northwestern suit and others in this story had been entered into the database before judges ordered them sealed.

According to her suit, a Northwestern sexual-assault hearing board found against the accused student. The student appealed and lost. He then appealed to the university president's office, and the case ended in limbo.

"Northwestern's president or his designee took no action at all, intending that the entire proceeding should permanently remain pending and unresolved, and that the effectiveness of the findings and sanctions against the rapist would be permanently stayed, thereby effectively denying (the female student) any resolution of the charge and any assurance that Northwestern would keep the rapist away from her as the hearing board ordered," according to the complaint.

The female student said in her suit that she later learned during a chance encounter with a Northwestern official in August 2008 that the school cut a deal with the male student: The student would not return to the university, and there would be no final record of discipline.

The woman alleged the university violated its own sexual assault policy, which is intended to encourage victims of sex crimes to come forward.

Two days after the suit was filed, court clerk records show Judge Sophia Hall sealed it. The woman's suit is no longer publicly available from the court, and all other filings in the case are also secret.

The woman's lawyer, Damon Dunn, said he did not request that the case be sealed. Dunn said the matter was later settled.

But Alan Cubbage, spokesman for Northwestern University, said the female student filed the case and had it sealed. He declined to talk about her allegations or any settlement.

"Because it's sealed, I can't talk about it," Cubbage said. "We are continuing to respect that."

Hall, through a member of her staff, declined to comment for this story.

Eva Janda, a Florida-based victim advocate who lectures at campuses nationwide, said the case should not have been sealed, regardless of who requested it.

"They want to pretend they are protecting the victim, but they are not," Janda said. "They are potentially harming the rest of the Northwestern population. I don't know why you would seal that case."

Judge's legal disputes secret

The legal disputes between a Cook County judge and a Chicago doctor also remain secret after judges sealed the cases in 2011.

Judge Eileen Brewer was sued in November 2010 over properties she and the doctor co-owned in Mexico, Michigan and Chicago.

Dr. Jane Blumenthal, a Gold Coast obstetrician and gynecologist, alleged she and the judge were unable to agree on "the use, occupancy, maintenance, possession and sale" of a two-story Kenwood house they bought in the 1990s. The home was valued at about $630,000 in 2012, according to the county assessor's office.

The doctor alleged Brewer had refused to allow her into the house since 2008 and would not sell it or buy out Blumenthal's share.

Blumenthal asked the court to divide the house, and to force the sale of the other properties she and Brewer owned in Michigan and Mexico, according to her 2010 complaint.