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Louisville judge unseals former governor Matt Bevin’s divorce case, ruling public should have access

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A Louisville judge has unsealed former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s divorce case, which was closed to the public in May after media outlets reported Bevin had been barred from his Anchorage home, unless his estranged wife gives him permission, as part of a contentious divorce case.

The case was sealed May 2 at the request of Matt Bevin and without objection of his estranged wife. But The Courier-Journal objected, arguing the media has a constitutional right to access the information in the case. A hearing was held on June 10, according to court records.

Matt Bevin’s attorney argued that Kentucky courts have long supported the idea of keeping family court records sealed in high profile cases, and documents in the divorce case could be embarrassing.

“Keeping the case sealed does not seek to obstruct public access but instead seeks to protect the personal privacy of the Bevin family from improper purposes and motives of others,” attorney Jesse Mudd wrote on behalf of Matt Bevin. “The Courier-Journal’s pursuit of access to the parties’ private divorce, years after Matt’s term ended, suggest an editorial interest in sensationalizing private matters to promote its own business model and bottom line.”

But in a June 28 ruling, Jefferson Family Court Judge Angela Johnson disagreed, ruling the state Constitution creates “a presumption of openness in all court proceedings.”

The judge ruled “public access to these records plays a significant, positive role in the functioning of high-profile divorce proceedings.”

For example, she wrote, making the case public can ensure judges are not giving special treatment to high-profile figures.”

Judge Johnson noted the media had written about the April 30 order barring Matt Bevin from his home, the public already knows about the divorce case and there is no good cause to seal it.

“While the order, and the related documents, are by far the most scandalous material in the court file, the Court is unable to unring a bell that has already been rung,” Johnson ruled. “The order and the information related to it are already out in the public eye.”

The judge did rule she may seal documents in the future, specifically information involving the couple’s children, but that the newspaper would be allowed to have an attorney present during any such proceedings.

Glenna Bevin previously claimed her estranged husband repeatedly was coming to the home unannounced and he “initiates conversations concerning the parties’ divorce,” according to court records.

“He often stays for hours in spite of my requests he leave,” she said in court records.

Matt Bevin argued he comes to the home to see his children.

But while Matt Bevin “seems to be trying to keep the parties’ relationship and maintain a ‘business as usual environment,"” Johnson previously ruled, “the truth of the matter is that the parties are getting a divorce. Normalcy and the ‘business as usual’ environment are gone."”

Johnson ruled that Matt Bevin moved out of the home two years ago and gave Glenna Bevin “exclusive access.”

On April 30, Matt Bevin was given a week to collect his belongings from the home.

The judge ordered that the two only communicate through a parenting smartphone application.

Johnson declined to hold Matt Bevin in contempt, a request by his wife, who said her husband refused to provide documents and called his conduct “aggressive and unsettling,” according to court records.

The judge also ordered that Glenna Bevin must ask for permission to enter Matt Bevin’s home, according to court records.

Glenna Bevin filed for divorce in May 2023, arguing the marriage was irretrievably broken.

Bevin, a Republican, served from 2015-2019 before losing to Andy Beshear by a razor-thin margin of about 5,000 votes.

Story credit: Jason Riley-WDRB/Louisville