Vijay Singh vs. the PGA Tour is finally heating up.
In a pre-trial conference at the New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, Justice Eileen Bransten sided with Singh’s lawyer Peter Ginsberg on the issue of confidentiality, a signal that sanctions issued under the PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program could soon enter the public record.
While Bransten indicated that she was comfortable continuing to withhold the names of offending golfers, she said that identifying other instances of the program’s application, including the names of the drugs that triggered them, was central to Singh’s claim that he was treated differently than other golfers who ran afoul of the program when he was suspended for his admitted use of deer antler spray in 2013.
Bransten weighed in after Ginsberg and Tour counsel Anthony Dreyer haggled over the extent of the confidentiality order governing the release of information related to the case.
“I basically think that everything should be public,” Bransten said. “If you’re saying that this was a habit on the part of the Tour to do it this way, I have to be able to bring in results.”
She suggested that instead of identifying an offender by name, an anonymous golfer could be referred to as “Person A.”
Bransten’s opinion ended a terse exchange between Ginsberg and Dreyer that turned into a profanity-laced confrontation in the hall outside the courtroom after the conference was adjourned. The two lawyers stood toe-to-toe trading barbs for several minutes until Dreyer stalked away.
When tempers cooled, Ginsberg seemed pleased to have regained some leverage.
“I’m all for it,” Ginsberg told GOLF.com when asked about the new developments. “I’m not comfortable with a confidentiality order except under limited circumstances. It’s a public courtroom, it’s a public dispute and the public is interested, so I’m hoping that it will be more transparent than it has been to date.”
It’s unlikely to move any faster, though. With several more motions to file and Bransten busy throughout much of the summer, the parties aren’t scheduled to reappear until September.
According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, the break could give both sides time to negotiate the terms of a settlement, a topic on which Ginsberg said the parties remain “very far apart.”
“If some of the documents the Tour thought would be remaining confidential won’t be, that’s important.” McCann said. “It makes it more threatening to the Tour if they have to give up information that they don’t want going public.”