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Court Sides with Free Beacon, Gives Gallego 15 Days to Make Case For Specific Redactions to Divorce File

Judge John Napper said Tuesday the total sealing of the 2017 divorce file was unjustified

Rep. Rubén Gallego (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
March 29, 2024

An Arizona judge on Tuesday sided with the Washington Free Beacon, which is arguing that the total sealing of Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (D., Ariz.) 2017 divorce records was wrong. Yavapai County Superior Court Judge John Napper gave lawyers for the Democratic Senate candidate 15 days to propose specific redactions to the case file.

The court's directive came after the Washington Free Beacon filed a motion in January to unseal Gallego’s divorce records, which have been shielded from public view since he split from his wife, Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego.

The two separated in 2016, when Kate Gallego was nine months pregnant. While divorce records in Arizona and other states are generally accessible to the public, the Gallegos requested—and a judge agreed—to put the entire case, even its existence on the docket, under seal. 

The court’s move this week is the first step in reversing that decision. The judge indicated that he had reviewed the file and did not believe that much if any of its contents should remain private.

The Free Beacon has argued that the unsealing of the divorce records is in the public interest given that Gallego and his wife both currently hold public office and that Gallego, who is running in what is likely to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races of the cycle, is seeking a promotion. The Democrat will face off against Republican Kari Lake in November. 

Lawyers for Gallego have fought the release of these records, arguing that their privacy concerns "override" the public interest in transparency and that the Free Beacon seeks simply to "commandeer the courts" in order to "disparage Rep. Gallego’s politics."