October Surprise?

Allred and client arriving at Canton courthouse, via Bernstein's cellphone.

I have just returned from beautiful Canton, Massachusetts, aka "the junction," home of BostonRob, and suddenly Ground Zero for a possible October Surprise, or the latest Gloria Allred circus, or both.

The scene is the Norfolk Family and Probate Court, and at issue is trial testimony given nearly two decades ago by one Mitt Romney of Belmont in the divorce of Staples founder Thomas Stemberg and Maureen Sullivan Stemberg.

Apparently the Boston Globe believes there's something newsworthy in that testimony, and is asking the court to lift the impoundment placed on the trial proceedings in 1994 (coincidentally, as Romney was running for US Senate). Sullivan Stemberg is supporting the motion, and also wants a gag order lifted so she can talk about it. She has local representation, but has also engaged the services of the notorious Allred as lead counsel.

Stemberg is strenuously objecting to the release of the transcript. The judge has brought in attorneys for Romney and Staples, although they are not party to the case, because of their potential interest. Neither Romney nor Staples is currently objecting to the motion. Romney's acquiescence may be seen as a sign that there's nothing damaging in the testimony; or that he wants to make it seem like he has nothing to hide, while Stemberg fights the release.

The hearing was postponed until tomorrow morning, so that the Staples attorney can review the transcript. (Apparently the court has lost or destroyed the transcript -- but Allred helpfully produced copies, presumably provided by Sullivan Stemberg's local attorney.) My guess is that the judge won't rule until at least Friday, because she seemed to indicate, prior to the postponement, that she would not rule today. 

But beginning tomorrow there will be a TV camera in the courtroom, which the judge agreed to over Stemberg's objection.

MORE BERNSTEIN: Romney Said What Now About Staples?

Allred was impressively discreet today, given her reputation. She and Sullivan Stemberg arrived together, rolling small luggage behind them, and stopped briefly to speak with the media scrum; Allred would say only that the testimony is "related to Romney's conduct and interaction with the Stembergs." After the hearing, Allred hung out in the hallway but would not give in to requests for comment.

Stemberg, by the way, for those of you who may recall the Stemberg Wars, looked terrific and at ease; I happened to ride the elevator up to the courtroom with her and Allred, and she seemed easy-going and friendly, but was constrained by Allred from answering questions about the case.

The rumor going around -- printed by TMZ, natch -- is that the Globe's interest lies in Romney giving bogus testimony about the value of Staples at the time. I have no idea whether that's true. The further speculation is that there is other, juicier material -- the "interaction with the Stembergs" portion -- that may be of no interest to the Globe but perhaps of interest to TMZ types, which would explain Allred's involvement. Again, I have no idea.

Certainly the Globe thinks there is something worthwhile in there -- they asked previously for an emergency ruling (which the judge denied) on the basis of the fast-approaching Presidential election.

So, we'll see where this goes. Back to beautiful Canton tomorrow everyone!


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