Ellison's Appeal Rejected Meaning Divorce Records Will be Unsealed

October 16, 2018 04:42 PM

The Minnesota State Court of Appeals Tuesday rejected an appeal filed by an attorney for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, clearing the way for the divorce records of he and his ex-wife Kim to be unsealed Wednesday.

The appeal sought to prevent a Hennepin County District Court from enforcing a ruling issued last week ordering those records unsealed. But his attorney Carla Kjellberg said Tuesday that the order will now be carried out as scheduled.

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Lawyers for the Star Tribune had filed a motion, seeking to unseal the records. A similar motion was filed by Alpha News, a conservative website. 

The motions came on the heels of domestic abuse allegations made against him by ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan. Ellison - the DFL candidate for state attorney general - has denied those allegations.

His ex-wife spoke out strongly Tuesday against the ruling that the records be made public. 

RELATED: Court Rules Ellison Divorce Records Will Be Unsealed

"What Alpha News and the Star Tribune are looking for is not in there," Kim Ellison said. "There was never any abuse in our marriage and there's nothing in our files to say that there was."

The order issued last Friday called for the documents from the divorce, finalized in 2012, to be unsealed Wednesday, except for documents or portions of them that contain "restricted identifiers" or "financial source documents."

RELATED: Court Weighs Whether or Not to Unseal Ellison Divorce Records

Kim Ellison said she is the one objecting to the records being released, revealing they contain details of her battle with depression after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years before the couple divorced.

"I'm ashamed that a judge thinks it's OK to exploit somebody's mental illness," she said during a press conference at which she was flanked by her sons. 

"And it's unconscionable to me that Alpha News and the Star Tribune want to use it to influence the results of an election."

In the appeal of the ruling, Ellison's representative had argued it "gave the parties no opportunities to request a protective order respecting the confidentiality of individual items containing confidential financial and medical information. Instead, the district court delegated its role to assure that sensitive medical and financial information not be released to the court administrator. The district court did so despite the fact that, as a sealed file, it contains no separate designation of individual documents or portions of documents as confidential."

The appeal went on to argue, "If the file is unsealed without proper redaction, confidential financial and medical information will be public, and the parties will be left with no meaningful remedy on appeal."

The Court of Appeals, however, rejected that argument.

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On Friday, a lawyer for Alpha News praised the district court's decision to order the documents unsealed.

"Today's decision was a victory for transparency in our elections," a statement read. "Minnesota frequently has the highest voter turnout in the country and today's order will help ensure voters can make informed decisions about candidates for public office."  

Earlier last week, attorneys for the Star Tribune had argued all divorce cases in Minnesota are presumptively open, and that the burden is on Ellison and his attorneys to keep the records closed in this case. They argued there is strong public interest in seeing what's in the files because Ellison is running for statewide office.

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Frank Rajkowski

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