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Bailey v. Bertram

Supreme Court of Kentucky

May 14, 2015

DANIEL E. BAILEY, JR. (M.D.), APPELLANT
v.
HONORABLE ALLAN RAY BERTRAM, JUDGE, MARION CIRCUIT COURT, DIVISION II, APPELLEE AND JOSEPH PAUL SPALDING; JOYCE SPALDING; KAREN JONES; AND TIMOTHY JONES, INTERVENING PARTIES

Released for Publication June 10, 2015.

Corrected June 10, 2015.

Page 688

ON APPEAL FROM COURT OF APPEALS. CASE NO. 2012-CA-001727-OA. MARION CIRCUIT COURT NO. 08-CI-00191.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: John F. Parker, Jr., Patricia Colleen Le Meur, Phillips, Parker, Orberson & Arnett, PLC, Louisville, Kentucky.

APPELLEE: Hon. Allan Ray Bertram, Judge Marion Circuit Court, Division II Campbellsville, Kentucky.

COUNSEL FOR INTERVENING PARTIES: Joseph Hubert Mattingly, III, Office of the Marion County Attorney, Special Assistant Attorney General, Lebanon, Kentucky; Kaelin Goheen Reed, Mattingly & Nally-Martin, PLLC, Lebanon, Kentucky; Kandice D. Engle-Gray, Lebanon, Kentucky.

Abramson, Barber, Cunningham and Keller, J.J., concur. Minton, C.J., concurs in result only. Venters, J., concurs in result only by separate opinion.

OPINION

Page 689

NOBLE, JUSTICE.

In this case, the trial court allowed the Intervening Parties to intervene in a divorce action, even though they had no interest in the marriage or the marital estate. The court did so because the Intervening Parties sought to intervene for the purportedly limited purpose of unsealing records in the court file. The Court of Appeals declined to issue a writ of prohibition to block the intervention and unsealing of the records. Although this Court believes that such intervention was improper, it nevertheless concludes that a writ of prohibition is not available because the Appellant has an adequate remedy by appeal. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

I. Background

In 2008, Dr. Daniel Bailey, the Appellant in this case, and his wife, Katherine, began divorce proceedings in Marion Circuit Court. The file apparently included sensitive information, and the trial court ordered that the file be sealed.

In 2010, two of Bailey's former patients and their spouses--Joyce and Joseph Paul Spalding, and Karen and Timothy Jones (collectively, the " Intervening Parties" )--filed medical negligence claims against him. Discovery proceeded in those cases for over a year. Then, in August 2011, the Intervening Parties moved to intervene in the Baileys' divorce action, alleging that the sealed records in that case might contain information reflecting Bailey's general state of mind as it might relate to the conduct alleged in the medical negligence suits.

The motion to intervene in the Baileys' divorce action was made solely for the purpose of trying to unseal portions of the divorce record. The Intervening Parties claimed that Bailey's personal lifestyle prior to and during the pendency of his divorce, coupled with general marital discord, may have affected his treatment of the two patients and thus was relevant to claims asserted by the patients and their spouses in their malpractice actions.

The circuit court concluded that " [c]oncerns for privacy in these delicate matters are certainly legitimate but they cannot in this particular case outweigh the presumption that all civil proceedings are open for public review and scrutiny." The court then granted the motion to intervene and ordered the divorce record unsealed. The court, however, postponed the effectiveness of its order for 21 days " unless an appropriate Petition for relief from the Court of Appeals of Kentucky is filed prior thereto."

Bailey quickly filed a petition for a writ of prohibition against the enforcement of the trial court's order. The Court of Appeals concluded that Bailey had no adequate remedy by appeal but nevertheless denied the petition, concluding that the trial court's action in unsealing the records was not erroneous. The Court of Appeals noted that judicial records are presumptively available to the public and that they should be sealed only if the right to access them is outweighed by other interests. The Court of Appeals then opined that Bailey had not shown that the records were protected by a privilege, nor that the records ...


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