WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A Florida appeals court ruled yesterday that prosecutors did not violate Rush Limbaugh's privacy rights when they paid a surprise visit to his doctors and seized his medical records for an investigation into his use of painkillers.
Investigators raided the doctors' offices last November to see if the conservative radio commentator had engaged in ''doctor shopping," or illegally visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions.
Limbaugh, 53, has not been charged with a crime, and the investigation had been at a standstill pending a decision on the medical records, which prosecutors have not yet been allowed to examine.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected Limbaugh's contention that his privacy rights trumped investigators' power to seize his records and said prosecutors did not have to notify him of their search warrants or give him an opportunity to challenge them.
''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," the three-judge panel ruled.
Limbaugh's lawyer said he will appeal.
''This was a fishing expedition from the outset to see if there was anything they could find to charge me with," Limbaugh said on his afternoon radio show. ''There was no doctor-shopping, but it was my contention all along that I shouldn't have to give up my right to privacy to prove my innocence."
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 and, saying it stemmed from severe back pain. He took a five-week leave from his radio show to enter a rehab program.
State attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat accused by Limbaugh of pursuing him for political reasons, said the ruling will allow the case to move forward.