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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Court File Is Sealed In The Wake Of Press Reports About The Mark Fuller Divorce Case

Judge Mark Fuller

The court file in the divorce case of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller has been sealed, multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer.

It's not clear when the case was sealed, but it appears to have happened since news reports broke last Thursday, outlining allegations of extramarital affairs, drug abuse, domestic abuse, and other misconduct against Fuller. The judge is best known for his role in presiding over the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman in 2006.

Fuller filed a motion to seal on April 20, citing security concerns related to his status as a federal judge. Attorneys for his wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, filed an objection on April 25, arguing that certain sensitive information  (financial matters, addresses, etc.) could be redacted but that the overall file should not be sealed. (See the Motion to Seal and Objection to Complete Sealing of File at the end of this post.)

No ruling had apparently been made as of last Thursday, and Fuller made no mention of press coverage as grounds for sealing in his motion. But now the file has been sealed completely in the wake of press coverage.

Potential embarrassment for one of the parties, via press coverage, almost never presents valid grounds for sealing a divorce case. Is Mark Fuller being protected in a way that a regular citizen would not be? It sure looks that way.

The sealing, or unsealing, of divorce files involving public figures has been in the news before. Divorce records from John Kerry's first marriage were an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. The unsealing of divorce records helped torpedo the U.S. Senate campaign of Illinois Republican Jack Ryan in 2004. A Democrat named Barack Obama wound up winning that seat and using it as a springboard to the White House.

An article at findlaw.com outlines the general rules for sealing a divorce case:

Generally, court proceedings are public matters. In the vast majority of jurisdictions, this includes divorce proceedings. This means that unless the court agrees to file divorce records under seal, filings in divorce proceedings become matters of public record. 
Exceptions to open court records exist including the identification of children and victims of sexual abuse, amongst others. In most places, however, to protect divorce records from being open to the public, one or both participants must ask the court to file records in the case under seal. When a court files divorce records under seal, confidential or sensitive information within those records remains private and does not become a matter of public record. Courts can order entire records or portions of them to be filed under seal. . . . 
Commonly cited reasons to file divorce records under seal include: 
* the need to protect children from identification in divorce records; 
* the need to protect victims of domestic violence; 
* the need to keep sensitive information such as social security numbers and bank account numbers private; and 
* the need to protect proprietary business information.

Is press coverage a valid reason for sealing a divorce file? It doesn't look like it. Are Alabamians wrongfully being denied access to public records? The answer appears to be yes.

(Photo: Phil Fleming)

  Mark Fuller Divorce--Motion to Seal
Mark Fuller Divorce--Wife's Objection to Seal

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

And the country thought 'pink slime' was a problem?

Danny Mullen
Phenix City

Robby Scott Hill said...

After all of the nose snubbing that went on at the federal courthouse about graduates of the Jones School of Law, it's ironic that Judge Fuller would choose a Jones graduate who works at a firm geared towards representing people and small business. Looks like the "blue blood" firms want nothing to do with this case. It's too hot to handle :)

legalschnauzer said...

Rob:

Do you find it odd that Mark Fuller is represented by a lawyer from the same firm as Bobby Segall, who is on Don Siegelman's defense team? Can things get any more incestuous than that in Montgomery.

jeffrey spruill said...

doggone it!!!!

just when it was getting good!!!!

David said...

Lets connect some dots.
-Mark Fuller - Republican.
-George Beck - Dino in a Repuplican law firm now US Attorney
-I'll bet Rollins and his attorneys are all republicans.
-How many of the lawyers, judges and sherriff who have messed over LS & Mrs. LS are republicans?

legalschnauzer said...

David:

Rollins is represented by Bradley Arant, and you can't get more GOP than that.

To my knowledge, pretty much all of the lawyers/judges/sheriff's who have screwed us are Republicans or DINOs. Robert Vance Jr. screwed us on a legal malpractice case, and he's a Democrat, but he's married to Joyce White Vance (now U.S. attorney for ND of AL), and she used to work at Bradley Arant.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Yes Roger, it's odd. I'd like to see some judges and law enforcement officers in Alabama hit rock bottom and have to go on food stamps like some of the people they have incarcerated, only to lose their food stamps and government assistance when their GOP brethren implement drug and alcohol testing. For every one of them who graduated from law school or police academy, there were many disadvantaged, young adults who were busy working to pay the court fines which fund the system. I'm not funding that system anymore. The next time I get stopped for anything, I'm not paying until I get some justice.

Robby Scott Hill said...

The one thing my military service taught me is that to get the job done, you may have to ignore some regulations and place your leaders in situations where they will be highly embarrassed if they try to discipline you.

The conduct described in this blog continues to prove very embarrassing to the Alabama State Bar & the Federal Bar. It's down right scandalous and I assure you that our friends at the State Bar & the Alabama Bureau of Investigation HQ are losing sleep over it and are getting into heated arguments with each other behind closed doors.

Remember, you're in control of the debate. Hold their feet to the fire. It will work!

legalschnauzer said...

Wise words, Rob. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Who didn't see that coming? Never fear the cover up will get worse.

James Greek said...

Robby my man, you tell it like it is.

legalschnauzer said...

Someone asked the name of the presiding judge in the Montgomery circuit. It's Charles Price. Here is link to info on the circuit:

http://15jc.alacourt.gov/

Robby Scott Hill said...

Thanks James Greek. Major Neil Tew, Division Chief of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, was my classmate at the Jones School of Law in Montgomery & Corporal Robert Heeschen was my Sergeant in the Marine Reserve in Huntsville. I know the corruption in the Alabama State Bar must bother both of them greatly. It's up to the ABI to do something about it & this blog is giving them the info. they need.