Circuit Judge Don McSpadden’s presiding in Independence County over the paternity and child support case against Hunter Biden, son of the former vice president, today opened to the public some documents previously filed under seal.
Much had been made of this particular document earlier by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The newspaper has provided a frequent forum for Clint Lancaster, the Republican-connected lawyer from Benton who’s been busy promoting the case with the press while seeking child support from Biden for a year-old child he apparently fathered with Lunden Alexis Roberts of Independence County. Beating up on Biden is, of course, useful to Donald Trump. Lancaster’s wife, also an attorney in the Biden case, is campaign treasurer for the Supreme Court race by Barbara Webb, wife of Doyle Webb, Arkansas Republican Party chair. Clint Lancaster has written for a Saline County publication in defense of Barbara Webb’s judicial skills. He doesn’t respond to my questions.
Biden’s attorney had filed a motion for a protective order. The circuit clerk had filed the request under seal, as the attorney asked. The newspaper suggested this ran afoul of state public records law.
The matter was complicated. The judge issued an order today indicating the clerk had acted properly because he withheld the document under a previous protective order. That order said certain information could be sealed, but other information should be open. That earlier order directed lawyers to file a full documents under seal and a redacted document for public view. The lawyer didn’t file a redacted document in the case of the filing by Biden’s attorney for a protective order. The clerk awaited guidance from the court on what should be open.
The judge said today he had reviewed the motion for a protective order and said it all should be open to view. Here is that motion filed earlier by Biden’s lawyer, Brent Langdon, now available on the court website. Lancaster on his own initiative — and without explicit court approval — already had given a copy of the motion filed under seal to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Frank Lockwood a few days ago. In it, Langdon sought a broad protective order. He contends some information Lancaster is seeking isn’t relevant to child support and has suggested it would be used for other purposes (political, in other words.)
Both Biden and Roberts have filed financial affidavits under seal. One was filed by Biden about three hours after an amended order by the judge requiring filing by today of five years of income tax returns and “ALL” records of income. At 4:30 p.m. today, the online filing system showed no additional filings from Biden or Roberts. They’d be sealed by judge’s orders in any case. I don’t know if the absence of new filings means both parties feel they’ve already fully complied with the judge’s orders or if the clerk’s office hasn’t yet updated the website to note new filings.
The judge has set a hearing on the request for a broad protective order Jan. 7. He will take up other issues that day, including temporary support payments.