May 20, 2006
California Billionaire Must Produce Records in Divorce Dispute – Lower Court Ruling Striking Down Privacy Statute Left Standing
This week the California Supreme Court rejected efforts by billionaire Ronald W. Burkle to keep 1,200 pages of documents involved in his divorce under seal. He had argued that the need for keeping them from the public was necessary in order to protect his children. On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court let stand a decision by a lower appeals court that had struck down a law that would have kept the records from public view.
In this dispute, the California Court of Appeals, Second District, had earlier considered a challenge to that state’s Family Code section 2024.6 by the Los Angeles Times. The statute required that a court, upon the request of a party to a divorce proceeding, seal any pleading that lists and provides the location or identifying information about the financial assets and liabilities of the parties. The Appeals Court concluded that section 2024.6 is unconstitutional on its face. It said that the First Amendment provides a right of access to court records in divorce proceedings. However, while the privacy interests protected by section 2024.6 may override the First Amendment right of access in an appropriate case, the statute was neither narrowly tailored to serve the privacy interest being protected nor is it the least restrictive means of protecting those privacy interests. Therefore, because there were less restrictive means existing to achieve the statutory objective, section 2024.6 operates as an undue burden on the First Amendment right of public access to court records. News Source. Peter Y. Hong, Jean Guccione and Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times, times.com.
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