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JUDGE DON MCSPADDEN

Circuit Judge Don McSpadden has summarized in a letter today what he expects going forward in the paternity case against Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president. In short: No nonsense.

In a letter to Clint Lancaster, attorney for Lunden Alexis Roberts, who is seeking child support from Biden as father of her child, and Dustin McDaniel, who withdrew yesterday as Biden’s counsel, McSpadden said he wants in 10 days full statements of financial means from both parties covering all sources of income in the last five years. This would include support “of any kind,” he said, including gifts, tips and bonuses.

He said the affidavit submitted this week by Roberts indicated she was employed in a family business, probably at a salary less than the minimum wage. The letter continued:

I do not want to have this drug out nor do I want to have to drag out the monies these individuals may have received in any form or fashion

 

It concerns me that the only information submitted to the court so far concerning employment of either party has been unemployment or underemployment.

Biden had said in seeking more time to prepare a financial statement that he’d been unemployed since May. His past work for a Ukrainian gas company and a Chinese concern have been a subject of controversy and used by Donald Trump as a “whatabout” answer to his impeachment inquiry.

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Said the judge:

This matter has been filed in this court. Again, my major and main if not only concern is this child. Issues are no longer up to the parties. I am going to treat this case like any paternity case that comes before this court. Hopefully the parties will see fit to look out for the interest of this child.

The judge said he included McDaniel because he didn’t have contact information for Biden, who hasn’t yet served notice of a new attorney. McDaniel said he and other lawyers had originally decided to withdraw as counsel on account of “irreconcilable” conflicts with Biden, but then Biden served notice Nov. 30 of their discharge through his “personal attorney,” perhaps a Chicago lawyer who’s represented Biden in financial matters. The conflicts were not disclosed.

The judge told lawyers in a hearing yesterday that he wouldn’t tolerate disclosure of financial information, which will be kept under seal. It is a subject of high interest to political enemies of the Biden family. He also discouraged the attorneys from talking to the press. In filing a claim for more than $11,000 in attorney fees and costs to be assessed against Biden, Lancaster included several charges for talking to media, including Frank Lockwood of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the New Yorker.

I’ve been unable to talk to Lancaster. I’ve wanted to ask him how he came to be handling a case in Independence County and whether politics might have played a role. He shares a hometown with Doyle Webb, chair of the Arkansas Republican Party. Also Webb’s wife, Barbara, is a Benton lawyer who was once appointed to serve a year on the circuit court bench in Saline County by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.  Barbara Webb is a candidate for Arkansas Supreme Court this year and is being touted by Republicans such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former Trump press secretary. Also, Clint Lancaster’s wife, Jennifer Lancaster, co-counsel with him in the Biden paternity case, is campaign treasurer for Webb’s Supreme Court campaign.

During a year on the bench in Saline County, some attorneys complained about Barbara Webb’s lack of decisiveness and speedy action in pending matters. Coincidentally, Lancaster wrote a column for mysaline.com praising the job Barbara Webb was doing and addressing that criticism.

Judge Webb’s approach is not unusual. She does not always come up with an immediate ruling on tough issues but is more thoughtful about her decisions. Some people criticize this approach. I don’t think it’s fair. Give me a thoughtful person over a rash one any day of the week and twice on a Sunday. If it involves a child, I’ll take it three times on every Sunday.

Talking with national reporters about the ill-starred personal life of Hunter Biden seems to me — and perhaps to the judge as well — more useful to others than to the child at issue in the case. I noticed yesterday that Lancaster referred Lockwood to court filings for further comments on yesterday’s hearing. (Lancaster has reported in detailing billing some 15 conversations with media or time spent reading media accounts in seeking almost $1,000 in reimbursement. One $75 charge was for, in part, listening to right-wing talk show host Hugh Hewitt talk to Sen. Tom Cotton about Hunter Biden. Critical to interest of the child, no doubt.)

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McSpadden has given both parties 10 days to file full financial statements. He said he anticipates ruling on paternity, support and visitation at the next hearing, scheduled Jan. 7.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, the judge issued an order sealing financial information and information about the child. He set a hearing for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 7.