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Why is Cal Ripken Jr.'s divorce case sealed?

Kelly Ripken gives her husband Cal Ripken a hug after the Orioles game against the Yankees. Ripken ended his consecutive game streak at 2,632 by sitting out the Sept. 21, 1998 game.
Kelly Ripken gives her husband Cal Ripken a hug after the Orioles game against the Yankees. Ripken ended his consecutive game streak at 2,632 by sitting out the Sept. 21, 1998 game. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

When former Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. and his wife, Kelly, divorced last week, the documents were placed under seal in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

That's not the case for most divorces.

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Divorces, as with other civil court cases, are presumed to be open to the public. But under Maryland's Rules of Procedure, cases can be sealed from public view when the court finds a "special and compelling reason" to do so. Sealed cases do not show up in Maryland's online judicial case search.

The Maryland Rules of Procedure also say court orders to seal cases should be public, but that's not the case in the Ripkens' divorce. The Baltimore Sun has requested that the Baltimore County Circuit Court make the order available to the public.

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John Maroon, a spokesman for Cal Ripken Jr., said the case was sealed to protect the couple's privacy. He noted that Ripken is "one of the highest-profile people in the state of Maryland."

"There's private and confidential information in the documents, including addresses and contact information," Maroon said. "We didn't want to invade the Ripkens' privacy that way, with that sort of personal information, so it was sealed."

Divorce cases of high-profile Maryland couples have occasionally been sealed before.

In 2013, then-Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman and her husband, Paul Volkman, had their divorce case sealed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. After The Sun protested, the case was moved out of the county and unsealed.

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The couple argued that because of Neuman's standing as a public official, details of the case could be spread around town or even turned into a campaign issue. Retired Judge Diane O. Leasure, who reviewed the renewed request to seal, found that the couple did not meet the standard to seal the case.

Neuman and Volkman later reconciled and had their case dismissed.

Also in 2013, the divorce case of then-state Sen. Richard Colburn and his wife, Alma, was briefly sealed in a Dorchester County court.

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