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Judge orders Neuman divorce case to remain open

A judge ruled Wednesday that the divorce file of Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman must remain open to the public.

Judge Diane O. Leasure, a retired Howard County judge, denied a motion by Neuman's attorney, Clara Martone Bereston, to seal the case. The motion was supported by attorney Leslie G. Billman, who represents Neuman's husband, Paul Volkman.

Bereston and Billman argued that given Neuman's standing as a public official, details of the divorce might be reported in the media and repeated around town — potentially embarrassing the couple's two school-age children. Leasure said that while she appreciated those arguments, divorce records are presumed to be open and the attorneys hadn't presented a reason to seal them. Maryland's Rules of Procedure dictate that such cases should only be sealed if the court finds a "special and compelling reason."

"It's just nothing I can grant or should grant," Leasure said. The judge left open the possibility that either party could renew the request to seal the case if they think information from the case is being used inappropriately.

Neuman and Volkman were married in 2004 and have been separated for nearly two years, according to court records.

Volkman filed for divorce from Neuman in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on March 24, and the case was initially sealed April 1 at the request of Neuman's attorney, though no hearing was held to determine if there was cause to do so. Responding to a request from The Baltimore Sun to open the records, county administrative Judge Paul Hackner, moved the case to Queen Anne's County and assigned it to Leasure.

Leasure then reversed the order to seal the case and scheduled Wednesday's hearing in Centreville to hear arguments on why it should be sealed.

During the hearing, Bereston said Neuman is in a "highly contested primary," and she is concerned someone could take facts of the divorce and "twist it into a campaign issue." Neuman is running in the Republican primary for county executive against Del. Steve Schuh.

In a statement late Wednesday, Schuh's campaign spokesman Dave Abrams responded, saying, "We are not interested in personal matters, but the improper sealing of this case raises serious questions."

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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