Disclosure of Sealed Court Records is a No-No

August 2007

Aside from the non-newsworthiness of the report of Chief Judge Nottingham's divorce proceedings, a few other details about the story are rummaging around in my brain this morning. Let's go to the Timeline. According to the Denver Post,

Nottingham filed for divorce in January 2006; it became final in July. ....Jaeger gave a divorce file to 9News, which first broadcast the story Thursday. A portion of the file was shared with The Denver Post by 9News.

It's clear that Marcie Jaeger not only provided records to the media, she is speaking with them directly. The reporters for both the Post and 9News disclose the contents of conversations with her. Yet, the Rocky Mountain News reports:

An Eagle County district court judge ordered the couple's divorce proceedings sealed, or unavailable to the public, in June. According to the order, Nottingham requested the file be sealed, and Jaeger did not object to his motion.

So, the action is filed in January, 2006. The files are sealed in June, 2007. There is a hearing on July 3, 2007 at which the parties testify, and the divorce becomes final. Is it a fair inference that Ms. Jaeger was unhappy with the court's ruling on the division of property or other economic issues and retaliated by going to the press? Did she divulge files or testimony that had been sealed? The answer to that may depend on both the accuracy of the media reports as to what she shared and the willingness of the media to disclose when she shared it. Disclosing sealed court files is a serious matter. It could constitute contempt of court. Of course, it may be that Ms. Jaeger tendered the divorce records to the media and spoke to reporters about them prior to June, 2007 and the media sat on the story until the divorce was final. Now that the story has made the front pages of both the Post and the News, I think it's a fair and important issue to raise and resolve. Will the Eagle County District Court or the District Attorney initiate an investigation on its own and issue a subpoena to 9News and the Denver Post to get to the bottom of this? Or will they sit back and do nothing and allow a member of the federal judiciary, and by extension, the federal court system to be impugned by a disgruntled ex-wife who appears to be pursuing a personal vendetta?

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