According to the case Globe Newspaper Co. v. Superior Court, the First and Sixth Amendments, as applied to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, allows both the press and the public to have access to court documents and records. This is how tabloids and other media outlets are able to publish articles detailing the pitfalls of celebrity divorce and legal battles. With this in mind, it is of no surprise that celebrities like to keep their court proceedings off of the public's radar.
To do so, the attorneys representing high profile clients will oftentimes request that all records and documents remain sealed. This means that the public, such as media organizations, cannot access any legal document pertaining to the case. This can be beneficial to the client because it gives them the opportunity to gain some sense of privacy during a very personal time in their lives. In order to seal the records from the public, the parties must prove their case meets the standard of good cause.
What gets defined as good cause is determined on a case by case basis, but generally it means that the public's access to documents will "likely result in harm to a compelling interest of the movement" (Matter of Herald Co. 734 F.2d 93, 100), and that the person or persons defined as the compelling interest can otherwise be protected if the documents are sealed. For instance, let's say there is a well-known and very successful couple with a hidden history of substance abuse filing for divorce. Their case would garner a large amount of media attention. If court documents and records were to be kept public and the couple's history of substance abuse came to light, this could be damaging to their children. In this situation, a court may deem their case eligible to be kept private because it would be in the best interests of the children.
Now, completely sealing (or making every document private) is not the only way a judge or court can protect the privacy rights of either party. If a judge does not rule that the case be completely sealed, he or she may decide to grant one of these alternatives:
- Partial Sealing
- Only certain sections of documents will be sealed, and all other information will be available to the public. For instance, sensitive financial information may be sealed, but terms of the divorce agreement may not.
- Documents will be edited to remove or censor certain text before released for public viewing. An example of this would be the names of minors involved in the case, or addresses to homes or other locations.
- Appearing Anonymously
- Instead of having the names of the Plaintiff and Defendant appear as "Kardashian v. Humphries", all documents would simply state "Anonymous v. Anonymous".
These methods were created to keep the most intimate details of a divorce private, and act as a shield to protect the parties from public scrutiny. If you are a celebrity or a fixture in the spotlight in any form, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney who has experience handling sensitive cases. Contact us at Brian D. Perskin and Associates today to schedule a complimentary consultation so we can review your case and determine the best route take to keep your high profile divorce out of the public eye.