Can’t Seal Police Abuse Settlement Amount Just Because Beneficiary is a Minor
In Monday’s Bradley v. Ackal (5th Cir. 2020), written by Judge James E. Graves, Jr., Shandell Marie Bradley sued the Iberia Parish Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff, claiming the sheriff’s department killed her husband, Victor White III. White was shot while he was handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, after being arrested; the sheriff’s department said he had committed suicide with a gun that hadn’t been found when he was patted down, but Bradley claimed he was shot by someone in the sheriff’s department. Bradley’s lawsuit was brought on behalf of herself and her and White’s child, AJW. The case settled, but court filings that indicated the settlement amount were place under seal; two local media outlets intervened to get the matter unsealed.
The district court refused to unseal the documents, but the Fifth Circuit reversed, relying on the common law right to access court records. This right creates a strong presumption, and the Fifth Circuit held it wasn’t rebutted here:
First, the district court weighed in favor of non-disclosure “the child’s privacy interest in being protected from financial predators or others who would harass the child simply because they know the amount received when the suit was settled.” However, it is public information that a settlement was reached in this case and that Bradley, AJW’s mother and sole living parent, is in control of AJW’s property. Pursuant to Louisiana law, “Each parent has the right and the obligation to administer the property of the child. The parent must do so as a prudent administrator and is answerable for any damage caused by his fraud, fault, default, or neglect.” There is no evidence AJW would face financial predation where Bradley is the property’s steward.
Further, Bradley does not show or argue that Bradley or AJW has experienced any financial predation or financially-motivated harassment since the settlement was reached
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