Derek Chauvin and wife Kellie's divorce of 'utmost public concern', media coalition seeks to unseal proceedings
The coalition filed a motion in Washington County District Court, saying the public deserve access to every stage of judicial proceedings, including divorces, adding that the court ignored the Constitution in sealing the Chauvins' divorce documents.
A media coalition is seeking to unseal court documents in the divorce proceedings of disgraced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and his wife Kellie Chauvin. The coalition filed a motion on Monday in Washington County District Court, saying the media and public deserve access to every stage of judicial proceedings, including divorces, adding that the court ignored the U.S. Constitution in sealing the Chauvins' divorce documents, the Star Tribune reported. “This is a case of utmost public concern,” a motion filed by attorney Leita Walker read. “That is a reason for more transparency, not less. Indeed, it would be nothing short of absurd to grant the parties to this case more privacy than the average divorce proceeding,” she wrote.
The coalition reportedly includes "the Star Tribune, the Associated Press, CBS News, WCCO-TV, KSTP-TV, and other Hubbard Broadcasting Inc. properties, KARE 11, the New York Times Co. and the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information."
Kellie Chauvin filed for divorce in late May, after her husband was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death of unarmed black man George Floyd. The couple filed a joint motion on Wednesday to seal their divorce case, thereby making related proceedings or court documents invisible to the public. In the filing, they argued that both had been subjected to "rage and violence." They even noted how several credit cards were opened in Derek Chauvin's name and their bank accounts hacked. Due to this, there were several unauthorized attempts to secure cash advances for tens of thousands of dollars, per The Tribune. “Allowing public access of this [divorce] file will allow further harassment of [Kellie Chauvin] and not allow privacy in this matter,” the filing read.
Furthermore, the Chauvins also argued that publicizing divorce proceedings would make their whereabouts known and “negatively affect the parties from a safety standpoint.” According to the Tribune, Derek and Kellie Chauvin's divorce case became unavailable in the state's public court system sometime Friday, presumably because their request had been granted by a judge.
The Chauvins, per the coalition, cited “only cursory proposed findings” to justify sealing their case. It added that the court had failed to give the public and media a chance to be heard on the matter before the case was removed from the electronic docketing system.
The coalition also noted that case law and precedent have imposed a high threshold for sealing divorce cases. “That the divorce proceedings may be an attempt to shield the couple’s assets from criminal forfeiture or from recovery by the Floyd family in their civil lawsuit serves only to increase the public interest in those proceedings,” the coalition argued. “Likewise, the probability that this case will involve information relevant to the felony tax fraud charges filed against the couple makes transparency in the proceedings all the more important.”
The motion asserted that divorce filings should be public and that sealing them is an “extraordinary deviation,” under state case law. It also noted there were several other measures that could be taken to protect Kellie Chauvin.