Editor’s note: On March 5, the Texas Lawyer editorial department hosted a roundtable discussion in Fort Worth, "Domestic Relations: How to Make Your Case in Family Court." Panelists included 231st District Judge Randy Catterton, 233rd District Judge William Harris, 324th District Judge Jerome Hennigan and 360th District Judge Michael Sinha. This is part two of the discussion. Part one ran in the April 22 edition of Texas Lawyer. The second part of the judges’ discussion covered domicile restrictions, pro se litigants and divorce forms, interviews of children, sealing documents and more. It has been edited for length and style.
John Council, senior reporter, Texas Lawyer, Dallas: . . . Judge Sinha, let’s talk about domicile restrictions. Do you ever weigh in on those when they seem to be too restrictive? And what happens if somebody comes to you later after the divorce decree is entered and wants to change domicile restriction?
360th District Judge
360th District Judge Michael Sinha, Fort Worth: Well, we have a rule in the 360th: You get one bite at the apple. So, if you are looking to get a geographic restriction lifted or established that’s out of the ordinary, if you want to go before [Associate] Judge [Cynthia Johns-]Mendoza and get a decision because you need to have the parties move their lives on relatively quickly because someone got a job offer or someone has family issues and they want to move, if she makes a decision on that, I mean, it could be a month or two before you might have a de novo come before me. So, we have decided that you get one bite at the apple. If you want me to hear it, as far as any geographic restrictions go, that’s fine. And we try to give priority to those cases, as well, because languishing six months or nine months on a docket when people have their lives on hold is a very difficult situation. So, we try to give priorities. If you set it before Judge Mendoza, my associate judge, and she makes a ruling, you’re not going to get an appeal on that. Just because we’ve had situations come up when an associate judge made a decision, based on that decision someone moved, bought a home, took the job, and then on a de novo, they had to come back, and it’s just — it’s a mess. So that’s just our own personal policies on that. As far as restricting one to school districts or counties or adjacent counties, we try to use the smell test on all of that. A lot of times the parties agree, but if it’s up to the court to decide, I don’t want to be too restrictive. I think Tarrant or Tarrant-and-contiguous or Tarrant-and-Dallas, something like that — just the smell test.
Council: OK. Judge Hennigan, when do you weigh in on these? I mean, do you ever when they seem to be too restrictive, or do you just matter-of-course approve them?
324th District Judge
324th District Judge Jerome Hennigan, Fort Worth: No. I do weigh in on them, and it’s really — obviously, if someone wants to move to Minneapolis, that’s a whole other thing. And I agree with Judge Sinha. [Associate] Judge [Beth] Polus will rarely ever change domicile, because what we don’t want to have happen, like he said, we don’t want someone to move and have to come back. And so we also have that one bite at the apple. You have whoever hear it — whoever you want to hear it, hear it, but it’s only going to happen once. But when I really weigh [in] is, for instance, if you want to do a week-on-week-off visitation schedule — which I am not crazy about — but if you do want to do a week-on-week-off visitation schedule, I think that even Tarrant County is too broad. For instance, if you live in Mansfield, and the other person lives in Haslet, I don’t think it’s fair to take this child back and forth across the county during rush hour to school. And, so, normally, if you want to do a week-on-week-off visitation schedule or any sort of split schedule, I will pretty much require that there be a restriction to a school district or a radius of the current residence or something, however y’all want to do it, but I think it has to be pretty narrow, if, in fact, you are going to have to do it . . . . It’s surely not fair for you to live in Benbrook and have somebody move to Mesquite and expect to take a child back and forth. So, yes, I do weigh in on restricting domicile restrictions in those instances.
Council: Judge Harris, I get, by your answers, that you like parties to work things out before you have to weigh in on these things. At what point do you have to get in the middle of any domicile-restriction fights?
233rd District Judge
233rd District Judge William Harris, Fort Worth: Well, if they want to change the domicile restriction . . . [M]y starting point is, I’m going to restrict the domicile to Tarrant County. That’s the starting point. And I think you have to persuade me. You picked this ball-yard to play in. I didn’t. You picked it. So, you have to tell me a reason why I should change it. If the parties agree to something, I’m probably not going to interfere with it, unless it’s just . . . if they agreed for the kid to live in a tent on the median of I-35, yeah, I’m probably not going to go with that. But, if they agree with anything in reason, I’m going to go with it. Changing the domicile restriction, I think you’ve got a real problem. . . . [I]t’s always pretty easy to prove a, you know, a positive, you know, change or interest of the party. But I think it’s real rare when you can prove best interest of the child on the domicile restriction, which is the legal standard.
Council: Judge Catterton, in the domicile restrictions that you approve, are they always within Tarrant County, and at what point do you have to weigh in on them?
231st District Judge
231st District Judge Randy Catterton, Fort Worth: I guess, it’s two different — depends on what the question is. If the question is: If the parties come to me, parties represented by attorneys come to me, with an agreement? I don’t mess with it unless it’s, you know, the kid-living-in-the-middle-of-35, sort of that situation. But if they come to me with an agreement on anything — but including geographic restrictions — I rarely interfere. I really don’t think I should. I mean, I’m the government, and I really don’t want the government telling me how to run my family if we all agree on how it should be run. So, that’s just a basic philosophical — philosophy — of mine. As far as my idea about geographic restrictions: I’ve been imposing geographic restrictions long before they were policy in the state. As a matter of fact, we had a mock trial at one of the San Antonio advanced courses, and I was on the — I was one — I was the judge. And I imposed a geographic restriction under the fact situation. I got booed by about half the crowd. But I think it’s very important that both parents — if you have good parents, I think it’s very, very important that they both are physically in a position where they can give as much nurturing and love to the children as possible. So, I am very much an advocate of geographic restrictions. If I do one, and if both parties are living in Tarrant County when we try the case, then that’s going to be where they are going to be staying. They are going to have to come back to court and convince me that it needs to change. You need to be aware of the fact that, at least on a temporary basis, you’re not going to be able to change a geographic restriction unless you can meet that burden that is — or you are not going to be able to change a geographic restriction unless you can meet the burden that — to not allow the change would endanger the physical or emotional welfare of the children. So, on a temporary basis, it’s very difficult to change, either to impose or to remove a geographic restriction.
Council: OK. Judge Catterton, if I have a temporary restraining order, what’s the best way to get that heard quickly in your court?
Catterton: Sit in front of the associate judge.
Council: OK. Go to the associate judge. All right.
Catterton: They’re almost all heard by the associate judge.
Council: Same thing with you, Judge Harris?
Harris: Yeah. The associate judge. All TRO hearings are set in front of the associate judge.
Council: OK. Same for you, Judge Hennigan and Judge Sinha, same policy?
Council: All right.
Sinha: Let me add one thing on the TRO. The TRO is actually the temporary restraining order, and I just want to say that if you want a TRO signed, it can be signed by myself or by Judge Mendoza in the 360th Court. Not everybody has the same policy. Secondly, if I’m on the bench hearing something, and it’s a standard TRO, you know, nothing unusual in it, you can bring it to my bailiff and he’ll give it to me up at the bench and I’ll be happy to sign it. If you have an unusual TRO, then I’m not going to be able to do that, and I would say anything with an affidavit, you’re in good standing if you bring your client with you. Don’t bring a runner when you are looking for unusual relief in a TRO, because that makes it very awkward for the runner. And, really, the best practice is, if you are looking for a kick-out or something unusual, bring your client with you so if the court has any questions, whether it’s myself or Judge Mendoza, we can swear that person in and ask a few questions before we sign or not sign.
Council: OK. Judge Sinha, what is your procedure for prove-ups on default judgments?
Sinha: My procedures? You know what, I think everybody should have a record on a default. Make that just something you do. Because, you know, on a motion for new trial, it’s . . . a different burden of proof when you have a record versus not having a record. You would be surprised how many people think that I’m being hassled or — they’re just so nice. They just don’t want to inconvenience the court, and, so, they just come up and prove it up. Well, I’ve got a wonderful court reporter named Jennifer Hunter. She doesn’t mind taking the record. We don’t mind taking the record. I think it’s really important to do that. Defaults are heard in the mornings. If you work out a case and you need a record, you know, of course, we’re available 24/7 to you guys, because getting something resolved helps get it off your desk and gets it off our dockets. So, as far as defaults go, we schedule things at 8:30 in the morning, and we usually wait about a half an hour. After that, come on up and get your record, and, again, don’t forget to ask for lawyer fees, too.
Council: Judge Hennigan, what’s your procedure in prove-ups?
Hennigan: I’m objecting to Judge Sinha’s remarks there, 24/7. I guess we’ll meet you at 3 o’clock in the morning. (Laughter.)
Sinha: At the Ranger game I will.
Hennigan: Let me say that I don’t have a 24/7 rule on defaults, but I agree. Everything — all defaults need to be on the record. I would say that, you know, if you show up in the morning and the opponent doesn’t show up, we wait 30 minutes. If you have a default, normal default, where somebody hasn’t answered, well, then, come and we’ll do it anytime during the day. Just get them done as quickly as possible.
Council: All right, Judge Harris.
Harris: Well, I think if you do a default without a reporter’s record, you have got a lead pipe cinch you are going to get reversed if it goes to the court of appeals. Having said that, I think a lot of people I’ve seen, they prove up a divorce default, and they will make a reporter’s record, but they don’t actually offer any evidence. I mean, you know, they don’t offer the nature of the estate, the — you know, all the factors that the appellate cases say, "We’re going to reverse you if you don’t do that." I think if you’re proving up a divorce, you need to take some time. You need to offer an inventory. You need to offer a documentary division. There is just a lot of things like that. If you just prove up, this is — you know, is that division just and right? It’s going to be reversed. On a modification, maybe not so much. Testimony that is in the [child's best] interest, I think, will support that. But, you know, I’ve always been sort of funny about a record. I think that a record — a reporter’s record is kind of like a forward pass. There’s three things that can happen, and two of them are bad. And if you’ve got an agreement that everybody has signed off on and all of that, I think it’s unwise to make a reporter’s record. But a lot of people like to do that, particularly people from the city to the east seem — they seem to have this perverse deal that there is something magical about a reporter’s record, which there is really not.
Council: Judge Catterton, what’s your procedure on prove-ups and default judgments?
Catterton: It’s basically the same as the others. We do all the prove-ups — I mean, defaults can be done at the same time as prove-ups. One small thing: You might make sure you take a look at the file. Occasionally the party will file a pro se answer, and they don’t send a copy. It’s no big deal. It’s just you can embarrass yourself a little bit if you go in front of the judges — "Sorry, I can’t do this this morning because they’ve filed an answer." So, just take a look at the file, and make sure that there has not been a pro se answer filed. Also, I agree completely with Judge Harris about — in your default — and the other judges — about, you know, making a record of that. I have a former partner who — most of you know, and some of you like, and some of you don’t — holds the record. Most of you do.
Member of the audience: Who might that be? (Laughter.)
Catterton: He has the record for doing a default prove-up. He took — they did the default in front of Judge Mary Ellen Hicks, my predecessor. They started at 9 o’clock in the morning. They broke for lunch, and they finished it after lunch at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The guy had [a] humongous amount of separate property. He proved up every piece of it. It went to the court of appeals, and they affirmed the default. I think it’s one of the few times that they have affirmed a default, but he had put in so much evidence of this being the separate property, that the court of appeals said, "You know, this is it." So make sure you do make a record when you do.
Council: Excellent. OK. Judge Catterton, I want to ask you how you handle pro se litigants — and I know I’m going to get some groans on this — how you are preparing for this, now that the Supreme Court has mandated the pro se forms that we’re going to be dealing with in about a year, I think.
Catterton: We’re going to start spraying. (Laughter.)
Catterton: No, not really. I don’t know what the Supreme Court is doing with the forms. I didn’t think we were supposed to practice law. I didn’t think we were supposed to tell people, you know, what kind of forms they’re supposed to use. I thought the Supreme Court was bound by the same Code of Judicial Conduct that I am, and I think they’ve overstepped their bounds. But as far as the pro se litigants, it’s not going to change much. If there are forms that work, I’m going to assign them. I do try to point out to the pro se litigants that if they have a form that’s absolutely unenforceable, I try to point it out to them. If they argue with me, I’ll tell them that, all right, you want me to sign it, but you are going to be coming back to court, and I will make that admonishment on the docket sheet, but it really isn’t going to change the way we handle. We’re going to meet and talk about, you know, physically how we handle the pro ses, but normally they come in in the morning. We try and get them started at 8 o’clock. I do more — no more than five a day and try to have them out of there by 8:30. If attorneys come in in the meantime, we put their files on top so that the attorneys can get out of there and get on with their other business.
Council: Judge Harris, how do you handle pro se litigants? Do you give them any slack, and how are we going to deal with them when we’ve got forms that they’re supposed to fill out?
Harris: Well, I deal with pro se litigants very, very simply. I treat them exactly like I treat lawyers. Because they are assuming the role of an attorney, and I treat them no better, no worse, no different than I treat a lawyer. I do five of them every day. If their decree is just — if their proposed judgment is just to the extent that I cannot, in good conscience, sign it because it’s a suit-affecting order, I won’t sign it. I will not write on a pro se decree under any circumstances. I will not answer their questions under any circumstances. I will not check boxes in state-promulgated or other-promulgated forms under any circumstances. Because I am a judge. I am not a practicing lawyer, and judicial immunity is one of the things that I hold very near and dear to my heart, and I don’t want to waive it by taking administrative actions over people that I don’t know. So, that’s pretty much my position on that. The forms are creating just a nightmare for these folks. They don’t even realize it. And what are you going to do? If it’s a — if it’s a not — nonsuit-affecting case, I sign the judgment they put in front of me. And I’ve had some absolute train wrecks as a result, but I always ask them, "Are you sure this is the judgment you want me to sign?" And just like Judge Catterton, I note that on the docket sheet.
Council: Judge Hennigan, how do you handle pro ses, and what’s going to happen when they have forms that they fill out? Is that going to change your life at all?
Hennigan: We already have forms.
Council: Yeah, well, Supreme Court-mandated ones.
Hennigan: Yeah. We already have forms. We do them — we do pro ses at 8:15. We’ll do five, up to six a day. If the lawyer comes in, the lawyer goes to the front of the line. I’m not going to have lawyers wait around while we do pro ses. I’m not going to mess with property divisions. I will tell people I won’t approve something to do with a child, a suit-affecting case, or I’ll tell them why. . . . It’s a problem for everyone, and some of these decrees that we see, like Judge Catterton said, they’re just guaranteed — it’s a guarantee they’re going to be back in, and people don’t understand it. And people — I will tell them, "You’re going to be back in" or "Is this what you want to do?" "Oh, yeah; I just got to get it done today." It’s a bad mistake, but it’s a problem we have, and I don’t know — it’s not going to do anything but get worse, I think. We’re to the point now where many days we’ll have, say, eight to nine cases on the docket, and there may be one case where there [are] lawyers on both sides, and there may be five or six cases where there is a lawyer on one side, and then there will be two or three where there [are] two pro ses. So, it’s a huge problem, and I don’t know what’s going to be done about it.
Council: OK. Judge Sinha, how do you handle somebody who’s not a lawyer who wants to get divorced in your court?
Sinha: Well, if it’s a totally messed-up order, I don’t sign them.
Sinha: I don’t think I’m doing anybody any good if I put my signature on a piece of junk. So, I usually tell them, "Please go see a lawyer. For the price of two new tires, you could have had someone look at this for an hour or two." I mean, I try to put it in terms that they understand, and I’ll put — two new tires, who doesn’t want tires on their car? So — and a lot of times, they’ll go see a lawyer and come back. But, for instance, if I hear of a 25-year marriage, and there is nothing mentioned about retirement on either side, I’m not going to sign it. I’m just not. Go find somebody else if you want or whatever, but maybe it’s ultimately going to drive them to go see a lawyer. This notion that anything to do with a child, just because they work it out and it’s on a form — one size does not fit all. I probably, the thing that bugs me the most about these forms is that they’re so time consuming for me. Because there are some people who just want to get divorced that day, and they don’t care what the form says. They don’t care what the order says. They just want to get divorced, and they’re very frustrated when I say, "Hey, you have no child support here. I’m not signing it." Or, "Hey, you don’t mention any cars. You folks have a house. I’m not signing it." Go see a lawyer, please. If not, go back to the law library, and I’ll see you another day.
Council: All right, Judge Sinha. Let’s say an older minor child wants to go live with another parent, will you conduct an interview with the child in your chambers, and if you do, will you make a record of that meeting?
Sinha: I’ve only been asked to make a record once. I generally don’t, because I think it has a chilling effect on a child wanting to talk to a judge. I think probably by the time they have talked to a judge, they have talked to two counselors, an amicus, a lawyer, maybe a police investigator, you know, so I try to make it as casual as possible. I have a rule that if the child is a bit older, they probably have a little more say than a child that’s 12 years old — blew out the birthday candles and gets to visit the judge the next day, you know? You know the cases. You guys have all had them. It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? The other thing that comes up sometimes is when you have a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old, and the 12-year-old is listening to what the 14- and the 16-year-old say and becomes a parroting kind of thing. So, I try not to let the 16-year-old talk first, because sometimes whatever they say is going to dictate. You could tell when they are ready for a speech. It’s funny. They come in, and they’re just geared up. You know, they’re ready for this speech, and I don’t — I don’t even ask them "Where do you want to live?" or "Who do you want to live with?" I try to do it generally: "How’s school going? What are your favorite subjects? What do you like to do?" — you know, all the things that take them away and out of that speech. And, generally, when I’m done talking with older kids, I don’t tell them what I’m going to do, either. I don’t want to empower these children, because they are just children. So, I let them know that I appreciated their time and input. It was wonderful to meet them, and I find the parents outside and tell them, you know, how great it was to meet their kid or whatever, you know. (Laughter.)
Sinha: And in some cases, you want to be the first one that spanks that kid. So — but anyway, that’s my general rule. If you have a 16-year-old and he’s driving and he’s got a job, she’s got a job — boy, they’re going to have a little bit more say about what’s going to happen in their lives than a 12- or 13-year-old. So, that’s me.
Council: Judge Hennigan, how do you handle the situation? Child wants to go live with another parent, and are you going to meet with them in your chambers, and are you going to make a record of it?
Hennigan: I’m obligated to meet with them if asked to do it. So, yes, I do talk to them. I don’t talk to them together if there is more than one child that I’m going to talk to. I talk to them separately. I don’t want a record. Obviously, you have the right to demand a record. I think it’s a bad thing to do. I agree with Jude Sinha. It’s a chilling effect if you have the court reporter in there taking note — taking a record on it, but I will, and I have, if requested by the lawyers. And so, again, I don’t ask questions of children as to where you want to live or who you like best. I just try to talk generally, and usually with kids, you learn pretty much what they want to do just through the way they respond to your questions. And I would encourage y’all not to just keep having judges talk to children, because I think it gets to be a form of child abuse after a while, because like Mike said — or Judge Sinha says — they’ve talked to lawyers, they’ve talked to parents, they’ve talked to counselors. Sometimes they have talked to police officers, and it’s just — eventually I think you are just bombarding this kid, and, so, I’m not sure how much good it does. But 16-year-olds, certainly I think you’ll have some, will have some influence on what —
Sinha: John, can I answer one?
Council: Yes, sir.
Sinha: I usually don’t talk to children until after I hear the trial, too. That’s another thing. And never bring a child to court. Make sure that there is a scheduled appointment time. It’s usually around 4 o’clock in our courts, so they don’t miss school, but don’t assume you can have a child just come on up to court and talk to the judge right away. Please schedule that first. Sorry to interrupt.
Council: No. That’s a good answer. I’m glad you clarified that. Judge Harris, how do you handle when a child wants to move with another parent, and do you make a record of that hearing in chambers?
Harris: Well, I was under the impression — I would stand corrected if I’m incorrect — but I was under the impression that the record is required of that hearing, and I am — like Judge Hennigan said, I know that the interview is required if a party requests it. I’m agreeing with Judge Sinha. There is a sliding scale, in my opinion, between 12 and 17. 12, I don’t have much, you know, input at all. Seventeen is almost conclusive, and the range is in there. I always tell the parents — before I interview the child, without the child present, obviously — I always tell the parents or ask them if they’re sure that they want me to interview their child, if they’re sure they want me to do that. And if they say they are, I try to never forget to make the observation to them that — the inference I’ve drawn from that is, No. 1, you’re a bad parent because you’ve injected your child into an adult proceeding. No. 2, just because I interview the child, may or may not be what — the result you’re looking for may or may not come about in the interview. And, like Judge Sinha said or Judge Hennigan, when you get one of these kids that sits down and they go off like a jack-in-the-box, just this prerecorded spiel that starts flying out, I just sit there and listen to it, and that lets me know that the parent has programmed them, is working them, and I’ll draw whatever inferences I wish to draw from that evidence. One of the things I do is: I always tell the kid that I’m sealing the reporter’s record. And I have been challenged on that. I was challenged by mandamus all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. And based on findings that disclosure, that record will be detrimental — you know, to the emotional — I don’t remember what all findings I made, but there was a bunch of them, and they withheld — they upheld me, the 2nd Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court on sealing that record.
Council: Judge Catterton, how do you handle that? And do you make a record — a child wants to move to another, with another parent, how do you handle that, and do you make a record of it?
Catterton: I’ve pretty much handled it like the other judges have said. I prefer to speak to the children by myself. If the attorneys want to be present, if they want a record, obviously, they can do so. If one attorney wants to be in there, then both attorneys need to be in there. I really and truly like to talk to the children by myself. I think that they’re a lot more forthcoming. I agree with Judge Sinha. I really don’t ask — I don’t think I’ve ever asked a child, "Who do you want to live with?" I think that’s just a horrible question — a place to put a child. I just talk to them about how they are doing, you know, what’s fun at mom’s house, what’s fun at dad’s house, what kind of obligations do you have at each house and that sort of thing. As far as a record is concerned, you need to keep in mind, though — well, first of all, it’s very difficult to get a reversal anyway in a child, in a custody suit. But you do need to keep in mind, if you are in a hotly contested child-custody suit and the judge interviews that child in chambers without a record, your chances of appeal just about have gone away, because they can’t assume what the child has said. And therefore, the court of appeals is going to say, "Well, that child could have said anything; therefore, there is no way that we’re going to be able to reverse this judge." But, having said that, of what I said originally was, it’s very difficult to get a reversal in those types of cases anyway.
Council: We have about one last question, and then I’ll open it up to the audience. But this last question Judge Harris sort of touched on. I’m going to stay with you, Judge Catterton. . . .
[W]hat would you seal, and what would you not seal, if an attorney asked you to? What’s your threshold? What do you generally always seal, and what will you never seal?
Catterton: If both attorneys are asking me to seal something, I’ll seal everything. I’ll seal the whole file. I just — I think I have the authority to do that.
Catterton: . . . [A]nd then I may ask a question about, "Why do you want it sealed?" But I’ve had — I’ve sealed cases where the people were just high-profile people in the community who didn’t want people to seal their — I mean, see their — the information about their case. So basically, if both sides were agreeing to it —
Council: Have you ever been challenged on that before?
Catterton: I have not.
Council: OK. Judge Harris, how do you handle sealing requests? What will you seal, and what will you not seal?
Harris: I’m — pretty much what Judge Catterton said. If the parties want it sealed, I’ll seal it. One of the things I encourage is: On, particularly on high-profile cases, where they’re resolving a case with, you know, an agreement-incident or things like that, I always ask the lawyers if they want to withdraw their agreement from the clerk’s record. And the lawyers almost always do that on high-money, high-profile cases. Because a lot of times those agreement-incident[s] will have, I mean, everything that, you know, even a marginally skilled identity thief would want, as far as accounts and balances, things like that. I think that the Family Code — I’m not exactly familiar with the provisions. I know that the Family Code matters in Rule 76A have variances between the two of them and, you know, again, if they want it sealed, I’m probably going to seal it. If it’s resisted, I’m just going to want authority for the — you know, why they don’t want it sealed.
. . .
Council: Judge Hennigan, what do you normally seal in a case?
Hennigan: Well, we seal terminations of adoptions. We — I’ll seal anything else that anybody wants sealed. . . . I agree with Judge Harris on, like, AIDs [agreements incident to divorce]. I used to tell lawyers they could withdraw them, but the district clerk has had some issue with withdrawing filings. I think their position now is that you can’t withdraw them. And, so, I don’t exactly know how that’s going to turn out, but I would be a little bit concerned thinking that you might be able to get something back once you filed it. I don’t know. I’m not sure that’s — I’m not sure that’s something the judge can’t order be taken out of a file, but I know the clerk has expressed some dismay over some things being ordered to be removed from the — some documents ordered to be removed from the files.
Harris: And again, I think one of the things I’ve done in the past — and I’m not sure that they have filed the document with the district clerk. I know that a lawyer who’s present here came in with a — one time recently — with a little two-page final judgment and an agreement-incident-to-divorce that I think — Jim, wasn’t it, like, didn’t it weigh about 5 or 10 pounds, the agreement incident?
Member of audience: Yes, sir.
Harris: And I just — it was not filed. I just considered it as supporting the judgment.
Council: Judge Sinha, sealing orders, what do you do when you are presented with them? Do you always approve them? What do you always approve? What do you generally approve to be sealed?
Sinha: I don’t think I’ve not approved a request, especially by both. Unsealing is a lot tougher in my court, probably, than normal. I’ve never allowed a pro se to have one unsealed, and it better be a darn good reason, and termination adoptions, for sure, need to be sealed. Those birth mothers and all, they need to be protected to some extent.
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