Skip to comments.CA: Senator renews attempt to seal records in divorce cases (Burkle's Law)
Posted on 02/27/2006 6:26:59 PM PST by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO (AP) - A Democratic lawmaker has introduced a bill to allow a divorcing spouse to keep financial records private, less than a month after a court struck down a similar law that opponents contend was passed to help a wealthy campaign donor.
Earlier this month, Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, took over a Senate bill dealing with homeland security that was awaiting action in the Assembly and turned it into a measure dealing with financial records in divorce cases.
It would require a court to seal certain financial records at the request of one of the spouses in a case involving divorce, marriage nullification or legal separation.
Murray's amendments, added to the bill on Feb. 16, followed a Jan. 20 decision by the state 2nd District Court of Appeal in a case involving billionaire Ron Burkle, who was trying to keep financial records in his divorce case sealed.
In that ruling, a three-judge panel found that a 2004 law cited by Burkle in his attempt to seal the financial records was "unconstitutional on its face."
"The First Amendment provides a right of access to court records in divorce proceedings," the court said in a decision written by Associate Justice Paul Boland.
"While the privacy interests protected by (the 2004 law) may override the First Amendment right of access in an appropriate case, the statute is not narrowly tailored to serve overriding privacy interests."
Murray's bill is narrower than the 2004 law. But it still would require a divorce court, at the request of one of the spouses, to seal or redact information about the couple's assets, liabilities, income, expenses or residential addresses.
Murray's office did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment. He told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the legislation, which is awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, is needed to protect privacy rights and avoid identity theft.
"There's too much financial information disclosed in a divorce that makes either party vulnerable to attack," he said.
He said neither Burkle, who has contributed to several Democrats and two campaign committees controlled by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, nor his aides asked him to introduce the bill.
"Is he interested in it? Sure," Murray told the newspaper. "Clearly, his name is on the court case. Clearly, it's not lost on anybody that he's involved somewhere."
A spokesman for Burkle, Frank Quintera, also said Burkle didn't ask for Murray's legislation or the 2004 law.
"Mr. Burkle is neither the author or the sponsor of the (Murray) bill, and as far as I know has no comment on the bill," he told The Associated Press.
Fred Silberberg, a veteran Los Angeles family law attorney, said he suggested the bill to Murray following the appeals court decision.
"I don't believe the public has the right to know everything that goes on in a divorce proceeding," he said, adding that he hadn't heard of Burkle until the appeals court issued its decision.
He said the court found First Amendment problems with the 2004 law because it required a judge to seal an entire document if it contained financial information.
The Murray bill would only require a court to redact "that portion of the information that relates directly to the financial issues, such as an account number, or the address of property," he said. "The old statute was the entire document."
But Tom Newton, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, which joined The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times in challenging the 2004 law, said Murray's bill would still undermine the concept that court proceedings should be public.
"This throws the whole thing out by allowing one party to make it a private proceeding," he told the Union-Tribune.
'Burkle's Law' ping
You gotta give him credit for trying! Seal the records, abolish judicial oversight, and then buy off the judge.
If they don't want their dirty deals aired in public, they shouldn't go to a public court to settle them, imo.
Or, he could try the Kerkorian method: Hire Pellicano for a wiretap to get the goods on his spouse.
I wonder who gets the car. (lots of other good background stuff on this thread, too)
Nice car. Bullet-proof probably
That's a standard requirement for every good thug, isn't it?
So... you think they'll fast-track this one across the gubs desk again?
California is certainly not unique in becoming a two-tier state: special highways for those who can afford the tolls, schools for those who can pay the tuition, beaches for those who can pay the mortgage, etc., etc. But the creation of a court system for those who can pay the judges is a particularly insidious development.From the Article:
Sealing court records is one way that the wealthy and powerful make the courts their own. If only the litigants know the basis for a judge's rulings, then that judge belongs to them. the case, its particulars, and its lessons are taken out of the flow of history and placed in a safe deposit box forever.
In Re the Marriage of Burkle represents that menace in spades, as well as another element that is unique to California: privately-paid judges with all the authority of the real thing. ...
Golden State: Backdoor Bill Would Seal Data on DivorceToo much to post, given excerpt requirements. Worth a read.
Reasonable people may differ about the merits of an obscure bill filed last year in Sacramento to shore up the state Office of Homeland Security.
But one question about it legitimately interests all of us: How and why did it become transformed, as though by the touch of a magic wand, into a bill that helps out one of California's wealthiest citizens in his exceedingly ugly divorce?
The apparent beneficiary of this legislative legerdemain is Ronald W. Burkle, a prominent investor and former supermarket magnate who has been trying for more than year to keep the lid on scads of financial details piled up in his divorce case.
But meanwhile, state Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City) has come to his aid. On the heels of the appellate ruling, Murray quietly implemented what is known as a "gut-and-amend" job on the homeland security measure, which had been gathering dust on a committee shelf. He struck out the old language and replaced it with a fresh version of the overturned law, much as one might scoop out a cantaloupe and fill it with crab dip.
The new bill would require judges to shroud only the financial details at issue, not the entire document. But because it still would prohibit them from making the customary balance test between privacy and openness at their own discretion and line by line, Janet Burkle and the newspapers still object.
The bill, which is currently in committee, also would allow privately paid judges to seal documents. This is very intriguing. It just happens that one of the issues in Burkle's case is precisely whether such judges a corps mostly made up of retired Superior Court judges paid by rich litigants to conduct quasi-private trials can seal public records. (The Burkles' handpicked judge regretfully concluded that he didn't have that authority.)
BILL NUMBER: SB 1015 AMENDED BILL TEXT AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY FEBRUARY 16, 2006 AMENDED IN SENATE AUGUST 30, 2005 AMENDED IN SENATE AUGUST 17, 2005 AMENDED IN SENATE AUGUST 15, 2005 AMENDED IN SENATE JULY 1, 2005 INTRODUCED BY Senator
RomeroMurray ( Principal coauthor: Assembly Member Parra ) ( Coauthors: Senators Ackerman, Kehoe, and Poochigian ) ( Coauthor: Assembly Member La Suer )FEBRUARY 22, 2005 An act to add and repeal Section 12016.1 of the Government Code, and to add and repeal Section 11105.06 of the Penal Code, relating to homeland security, and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately.An act to amend Section 2024.6 of the Family Code, relating to dissolution of marriage. LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST SB 1015, as amended, RomeroMurray Office of Homeland Security.Dissolution of marriage: financial declarations. Existing law permits a party to request that documents listing or identifying the parties' assets and liabilities be sealed in specified family law proceedings, including dissolution of marriage. This bill would extend those provisions to include documents listing or identifying the parties' income or expenses, permit those records to be sealed or redacted, and make related changes. The bill would require the Judicial Council to adopt rules governing procedures for sealing, unsealing, redacting, and restoring those records. (1) Existing law requires the Governor to appoint a Director of Homeland Security to coordinate homeland security activities in the state, and to appoint a deputy director of homeland security to serve at the pleasure of the director. Existing law sets forth certain duties of an Office of Homeland Security in state government. Existing law also authorizes the Attorney General to furnish specified summary criminal history information to certain peace officers of the state, subject to specified conditions. This bill would, until January 1, 2007, provide that the Office of Homeland Security shall be considered a Class II criminal justice agency and would require the Attorney General to furnish state summary criminal history information to persons employed within the Office of Homeland Security whose duties and responsibilities require the authority to access criminal history and other intelligence information, and who have been cleared to do so by both the state Department of Justice and the United States Department of Homeland Security for these purposes. (2) The California Public Records Act specifies that certain security, investigatory, and other information of certain law enforcement entities is not subject to disclosure. This bill would, until January 1, 2007, specify that the Office of Homeland Security is a law enforcement organization as required for receipt by employees of the office of confidential intelligence information pursuant to these provisions. (3) This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.Vote: 2/3majority . Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares as follows: (a) The people have a right of privacy in their financial affairs, as well as in matters relating to marriage. (b) The law of this state requires any party to a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or legal separation to disclose fully in documents that are filed with the court hearing that proceeding, thereby becoming a matter of public record, detailed and sensitive financial information, including the nature, extent, and location of the party's assets and liabilities and income and expenses, and information, such as social security numbers and bank account numbers, that can be used to identify and locate the party's assets, liabilities, income and expenses. (c) The sensitive financial information which the law compels a party to a proceeding for dissolution or nullity of marriage or legal separation to disclose into the public record is subject to use for improper purposes, particularly including but not limited to, the burgeoning crime of identity theft, yet is rarely if ever a matter of legitimate public interest. (d) The Legislature also finds that protecting the sensitive financial information subject to this section will further the prompt and efficient resolution or settlement of proceedings for the dissolution or nullity of marriage or legal separation by preventing or discouraging the disclosure or threatened disclosure of that information for improper purposes or to secure collateral or unfair advantages. (e) Existing law concerning the sealing of court records was not enacted or otherwise promulgated with consideration of the extensive financial disclosures required of parties to a proceeding for dissolution or nullity of marriage, or legal separation. Much of existing law concerning the sealing of court records was also enacted or otherwise promulgated prior to the current epidemic of identity theft and the current widespread use of electronic data bases, containing sensitive financial and other personal information, which data is vulnerable to misuse. Existing law was enacted prior to the widespread concern over and federal legislation designed to protect and guard against, the misuse of personal information and child abduction. (f) For these reasons, the Legislature finds that existing law concerning the sealing of court records does not adequately protect the right of privacy in financial and marital matters to which parties to a proceeding for dissolution or nullity of marriage are entitled. It is the intent of the Legislature to protect more fully that right of privacy while acknowledging and balancing the public's right of access to public records and judicial proceedings. Accordingly, it enacts this act. SEC. 2. Section 2024.6 of the Family Code is amended to read: 2024.6. (a) UponNotwithstanding any other provision of law, upon request by a party to a petitionproceeding for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or legal separation, the court shall order sealed or redacted any portion of a pleading that lists the parties' financial assets and, liabilities and, income or expenses, or provides the location of, including a residential address, or identifying information about , those assets and, liabilities sealed, income, or expenses. Subject to the direction of the court, no more of any pleading shall be sealed or redacted than is necessary to prevent identification or location of the financial information subject to this section . The request may be made by ex parte application. Nothing sealed or redacted pursuant to this section may be unsealed or restored except upon petition to the court and a showing of good cause shown. (b) Commencing not later than July 1, 2005____ , the Judicial Council form used to declare assets andor liabilities of the parties in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or legal separation of the parties shall require the party filing the form to state whether the declaration contains identifying information on the assets and, liabilities , income, or expenses listed therein. If the party making the request set forth in subdivision (a) uses a pleading other than the Judicial Council form, the pleading shall exhibit a notice on the front page, in bold capital letters, that the pleading lists andor identifies financial information and is therefore subject to this section. By the same date, the Judicial Council shall also adopt rules setting forth the procedures to be used for sealing, unsealing, redacting, and restoring pleadings pursuant to this section. (c) For purposes of this section, "pleading" means a document that sets forth or declares the parties'assets and, liabilities, income andor expenses , aof one or both of the parties, including, but not limited to marital settlement agreements, exhibits, schedules, transcripts, or any document incidental to any declaration or marital settlement agreement that lists andor identifies the parties' assets and liabilities, or any document filed with the court incidental to the declaration or agreement that lists and identifiesfinancial information. (d) For purposes of this section and notwithstanding any other provision of law, "court" includes a privately compensated judge. (e) The party making the request to seal a pleadingpursuant to subdivision (a) shall serve a copy of the pleading containing financial information subject to this section on the other party or parties to the proceeding and file a proof of service with the request to seal the pleading. (e)(f) Nothing in this section precludes a party to a proceeding described in this section from using any document or information contained in a sealedpleading sealed or redacted pursuant to this section in any manner that is not otherwise prohibited by law. All matter omitted in this version of the bill appears in the bill as amended in Senate, August 30, 2005 (JR11)
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