Delaware County power couple’s divorce case is sealed; is that legal?

From The Columbus Dispatch State Sen. Kris Jordan and Delaware County Recorder Melissa Jordan are embroiled in a not-so-secret divorce.

What is secret, however, is every legal filing made in their apparently contentious case in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. That includes the judge’s order making the entire court file confidential.

The judge’s approval of the estranged Republican couple’s joint request to seal their case from public view appears contrary to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling.

Mrs. Jordan filed for divorce in June 2016, with the publicly available docket reflecting filings that appear to show deep-rooted disagreement over their children and finances. A trial is set to begin June 26.

The docket shows a Dec. 22 order sealing the case after the Jordans and their lawyers submitted an agreement to make it secret.

Oddly, though, the entry did not appear on the online docket until sometime after April 1. Earlier examinations of the docket by The Dispatch did not show the sealing order.

Citing Ohio’s public-records law and court rules, The Dispatch submitted an April 28 written request to inspect the Jordans’ divorce case file. But the newspaper’s request was denied by clerk’s employees, who cited the court order sealing the case.

The newspaper’s request was docketed as part of the case. Domestic Relations Court Administrator Denise Martin said she would bring the request to the attention of the visiting judge handling the case, Michael Brady, a retired probate and Juvenile Court judge from Logan County.

The Dispatch has received no response from the court. Martin did not return repeated telephone calls. Other attempts to reach Brady also were unsuccessful.

Barry Wolinetz, a Columbus lawyer representing Mr. Jordan, said that Judge Brady acted properly “in taking two public officials and shielding their kids ... I think the court is extremely concerned about the kids’ welfare. I think your curiosity may be piqued, but there’s not much scandal in this case and there’s not much good reading.”

Mrs. Jordan’s lawyer, Anthony Greco of Columbus, did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2011, deputies were called to the Jordans’ Powell-area home for a domestic dispute. A prosecutor said probable cause existed to charge Mr. Jordan with assault, domestic violence and disorderly conduct, but Mrs. Jordan refused to press charges.

Legal authority to seal a divorce case because the parties are public officials and children are involved doesn’t appear to exist.

In a 2004 case involving the sealing of the Adams County divorce of former state Rep. Danny Bubp, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that information about the case could not be withheld from the public.

Neither Bubp, who now is a judge in Brown County, nor the judge who sealed the case, asserted that the case records were exempt from release under public-records laws, the justices ruled.

“Any record used by a court to render a decision is a record subject” to release under public-records laws, the court said in citing a ruling made earlier in 2004.