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Orszag Opinion

Orszag Opinion

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Published by Emily Amelia Heil
Court order in the Orszag case.
Court order in the Orszag case.

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Published by: Emily Amelia Heil on Feb 27, 2014
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03/01/2014

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IN THESUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIAFAMILY COURTDOMESTIC RELATIONS BRANCH
 __________________________________________ )CAMERON KENNEDY, ))Plaintiff,)2006DRB2583) Judge Alfred S. Irving, Jr.v.) )PETER ORSZAG,))Defendant.) __________________________________________)
ORDER 
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On January 17, 2014, Intervenor Bianna Orszagfiled a Motion to Seal the Trial Transcripts. On January 17, 2014,Defendant Peter Orszagfileda motion
in limine
seeking, among other things, to have sealed certain portions of theupcomingtrialtranscript thatspecifically pertain to informationidentified asconfidential in a protective order that the Hon. Danya Daysonissuedon May 8, 2013,and to have the courtroom vacated ofnonparties during the trial when such facts are entered into the trial record. The Court appreciates that, on August 2, 2013, after consideration, Judge Dayson determined to seal,at trial,certain exhibits containing certain personal financial informationof Mr. Orszag and Ms. Orszag. Judge Dayson will not be presiding over the trial, however, and it is to the undersigned to  preside over a trial that is fair, open,and efficient. On January 23, 2014, the eve of the second scheduled start date for the trial, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, in conjunction with severalmedia outlets (hereinafter,collectively“Media Intervenors”), filed amotion to intervene and a
1
Given the delay created by the recent motions and the fact that the parties have sufficiently argued their positions, it is in the interests of the parties and the Court to dispose of the motions on the papers, without additional oral argument.
 
2
contemporaneous motion to unseal records, which motion,they suggested,should bereceived andconsidered as an opposition to Mr. Orszag’s request to extend theprotections of the  protective order through trial. Mr. Orszag and Ms. Orszag filed oppositions totheMedia Intervenors’ motion onFebruary 14, 2014. Although Ms. Kennedyhas argued often to Judge Dayson for unsealing the records so that the public may have access to certain sealed documents, Ms. Kennedyelected not to file a responsive pleading. No matter, the Court has reviewed all of the pleadings before it, in addition to all of the pleadings filed in this case and the oral presentations before Judge Dayson, and is constrained to conduct a trial that iscompletelyopen to the public. As explained below, the Court will endeavor to ensure that Ms. Orszag’s  personal information is protected through redaction, but sealing all of the designated documents andclosingthe trial is both inappropriate and untenable. In short, the law of the case doctrine is not implicated by Judge Dayson’sinterlocutory procedural rulings. The rulings are not sufficiently final to invoke application of the doctrine, though the Court respects Judge Dayson’s rulings anddoes not depart from themlightly.
Factual and Procedural Background 
On August 7, 2006, Ms. Kennedy filed herComplaintfor a Judgment of Absolute Divorce,having been mutually and voluntarily separatedfrom Mr. Orszagfor six months. At that time, Ms. Kennedyindicated that, on April 3, 2006, the parties had entered into a Voluntary Separation, Custody and Property Settlement Agreement(“the Agreement”)that “resolved all issues incident to the parties’ marriage.” Mr. Orszag filed a consent answer to Ms. Kennedy’s Complaint the same day, and the parties signed a Joint Waiver of Right to Appeal. On  November 17, 2006, the Hon. Jerry S.Byrd issued Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment of Absolute Divorce. Judge Byrdneither incorporated nor mergedthe Agreement into
 
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the Judgmentand, as such, it is not part of the publiccaserecord.Approximately six years later, on October 2, 2012, Ms. Kennedy filed the subject Petition to Establish Child Support Order Modifying an Agreement Relating to Child Support. Ms. Kennedyassertsthat there have been multiple substantial and material changes in circumstances meritinga change in the Agreement. Specifically,Ms. Kennedycontends thatMr. Orszaghas enjoyed a significant increase in his compensation, the children’s expenses have increased significantly, and the trust established to fund the children’s educationand other expensesis nearing depletion. She contendsfurtherthat the significant disparity between her lifestyle and that of Mr. Orszag’swarrantsan increase in Mr. Orszag’s child support obligation. Ms. Kennedy argues that the current child support arrangement,under which neither party makesdirect child support paymentsto the other,is inadequate and has been subject toMr. Orszag’s whims. On October 19, 2012, Mr. Orszag filed an Emergency Motion for Orders Sealing Documents, Orders, and Transcripts, explaining that “public exposure of the issues in this case will have detrimental, damaging, and possibly negative long-lasting effects on theDefendant, his current wife, and the Children.” As to the Parties’ Agreement, Mr. Orszagnotedthat the parties elected not to merge or incorporate theAgreement into the Judgment of Absolute Divorce so as to protect theParties’ privacy andthat of theminor children. He argued that he and the children have a constitutional right to privacy, which the Court should recognizeand protect. He argued that Family Court proceedings do not have a tradition of openness, and that the Court has the discretion tolimit the public’s right of access to such proceedings whenthere is an important countervailing interest. One such interest is that he and his current wife are in positions of public interest and have previously experienced unwanted media attention. Thus, he argued, public

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