Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hearing Set Over Constitutionality of California Code Section

Roy Paul, the Los Angeles judge presiding over the divorce trial of Ron and Janet Burkle, has set a February 18, 2005 date to hear arguments over whether records should continue to be sealed pursuant to California Family Code Section 2024.6 in the case of Burkle v. Burkle. Lawyers for the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and the California Newspaper Publishers Association, as well as Mrs. Burkle's attorneys, have challenged the code section's constitutionality on various grounds. The Briefs read in part: "...Mr. Burkle is asking this Court to seal virtually the entire court file and proceedings--including court orders and judgments--in his acrimonious divorce case. Mr. Burkle is relying on a new secrecy statute, Family Code [section] 2024.6, which requires the automatic sealing of any divorce court document that discloses the financial assets of one of the parties. Curiously, this new statute was signed into law as "urgency legislation" by Gov. Arnold Schwarnegger on June 7, 2004--just months after this Court denied Mr. Burkle's previous request to seal divorce court records containing financial information--and shortly before Mr. Burkle and his companies donated $121,200 to the governor's political committees on March 1, 2004....This Court should reject Mr. Burkle's latest bid to hide his divorce proceedings and his financial asset information...Even assuming that Family Code [Section] 2024.6 provided for the blanket sealing of the entire divorce file--which it does not--this hastily enacted statute is flatly unconstitutional because it requires the trial court to seal divorce court records, including court orders and judgments, without providing for the document-by-document analysis and threshold inquiries required by the First Amendment." Read more of the Intervenors' Briefs here and here.

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