A court-appointed referee has decided that the public and press have no business examining thousands of documents regarding the French bank Credit Lyonnais’ portfolio of loans to the entertainment industry. At least, not yet.

The Los Angeles Superior Court appointed retired judge Thomas Johnson to “referee” ongoing legal proceedings between billionaire Kirk Kerkorian and the world’s ninth-largest bank.

Thomas is currently in Paris overseeing depositions of top bank exex by Kerkorian’s attorney Patricia Glaser, a partner in Christensen, White, Miller, Fink & Jacobs. She is collecting statements that eventually will be used as legal testimony in Kerkorian’s $ 675 million amended countersuit, which charges CL with racketeering, fraud and conspiracy (Daily Variety, April 23).

No court date has been set, and most insiders figure it will be well over a year before judge Richard Hubbell will even hear the case.

In the interim, Glaser wanted to reveal the documents and depositions publicly and asked the referee to lift a confidentiality ban requested by the bank. However, Thomas decided yesterday he would review all documents before lifting even a partial ban.

“A confidentiality order covering documents produced in discovery is in place ,” confirmed a CL spokesman. “The question now is whether or not some documents will be exempted from the confidentiality. (Johnson) has decided to review the documents one by one, which should be a painstaking process.”

One source close to the proceedings in Paris said, “Credit Lyonnais fielded a full-court press of lawyers to argue for the maintenance of secrecy of documents presented in this case, which was opposed by attorneys for Kerkorian.

However, the judge declined to rule and said he was going to go over each one of the documents, which could mean a lengthy period before any decision is known. This is exactly what the bank was interested in.”

Depositions continue until May 7.

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