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Judge turns down Broadcom co-founder Henry Nicholas' attempt to reseal divorce records

The Times initiated the court action to unseal the documents, arguing successfully that the public had a constitutional right to access.

September 05, 2009|E. Scott Reckard

An attempt Friday by Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III to reseal records in the billionaire's divorce case and to bar the Los Angeles Times from publishing information in the documents was turned down by an Orange County judge.

The California Court of Appeal ordered the records unsealed last week after a two-year legal effort by Nicholas to keep them private. The Times, which initiated the court action to unseal the documents, argued successfully that the public had a constitutional right to access.

The Times published articles based on the filings on its website Thursday and in its print edition Friday, detailing the harsh battles between Henry and Stacey Nicholas over alleged illicit drug use and other matters.

That prompted attorneys for Nicholas to ask a judge to order The Times to return the documents and to bar the news organization from publishing any additional articles based on the files. Nicholas' attorneys contended that the documents might have been "erroneously" provided to the newspaper, or might not have been sorted to screen out personal material from a custody battle over Nicholas' children.

The Times responded that granting Nicholas' request would infringe on the paper's 1st Amendment rights.

"Few, if any, legal principles are as well established as the constitutional barrier against such censorship by the government," Alonzo Wickers IV, an attorney representing The Times, wrote in a court filing.

In rejecting the Nicholas lawyers' motion, Superior Court Judge Clay M. Smith said The Times "complied with the applicable procedure for review of records and did not access court records in any inappropriate manner."

The California Supreme Court confirmed the public's right to examine divorce documents in May 2006, rejecting a three-year effort by billionaire Ronald W. Burkle to deny The Times access to the records of his divorce proceedings.


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