Several of Alabama’s media outlets, have filed a motion to intervene and to unseal Governor Robert Bentley’s divorce records.
The media outlets filing the motion include WBRC-TV Fox 6 of Birmingham, WAFF-TV 48 of Huntsville and WSFA-TV 12 of Montgomery, The Star, The Daily Home of Talladega, The Gadsden Times, WBMA-TV ABC 33/40 of Birmingham, The Decatur Daily, the Times Daily of Florence, and The Tuscaloosa News.
Records of the divorce case were sealed by Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hamner on Aug. 31. Judge Hamner ordered the sealing of the record about a half hour after attorneys for both parties filed a motion to move filings out of the public eye. Records of divorces, like those in most court cases, are open to inspection as public records under state law.
Since the divorce filing, some news outlets have reported unsubstantiated allegations against the governor, citing no sources. There are allegations that Gov. Robert Bentley misused state property. Rep. Allen Farley has asked that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange begin an investigation into Bentley’s use of state property, primarily state aircraft.
The motion filed by WBRC FOX6 News states, “Members of the news media were not provided an opportunity to be heard concerning the closing of a court file involving the First Lady and Governor as parties.”
The filing argues that leaving the case sealed harms a journalists’ efforts to provide accurate coverage of “a fair subject for reporting by the press.”
The motion continues and says sealing the documents interferes with journalists’ ability to do their jobs and “violates the First Amendment and/or common law rights of access to court proceedings.”