Douglas County District Court clerk John Friend said the sealing of cases in Douglas County is happening “more often than (people) realize.” A judge must order the sealing of every case, with the exception of the rare automatic seals required by law, such as a dismissed felony case or the appeal of a mental health pledge. Judges are also expected to hold hearings before sealing cases.
Judges have sealed some cases when they involve “someone famous or infamous, or couples who have $ 25 million businesses together, things like that,” Friend said. “I think that happens quite often, especially when you’re talking about people fighting over millions of dollars (in a marital estate) or business interests they want to protect.”
However, under state law, fear of publicity or notoriety is not a reason for an order to seal; nor the fact that some people have more zeros at the end of their net worth.
Nationally, in the early 2000s, a billionaire California investor and heir to a supermarket chain attempted to seal his divorce case – even relying on California lawmakers to pass laws allowing him to do so. . However, the appeals courts struck down all privacy provisions and the California Supreme Court ruled that such cases must be opened. One of the arguments presented: a less visible spouse can end up on the small end of the stick when divorces are prohibited in public view.