A Hennepin County Family Court referee on Friday agreed to unseal U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s divorce file and said it would happen next week. An attorney for the Democratic candidate for attorney general vowed to appeal the decision.
Referee Jason T. Hutchison ordered the file to be unsealed on Oct. 17, with the exception of documents subject to restrictions under state law. The Star Tribune and Alpha News, a right-leaning news website, sought the closed file’s public release.
The motions follow allegations by Ellison’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, that Ellison tried to drag her off a bed during an argument in 2016. He denies the allegation.
Divorce records are typically public, but judges will often agree to seal them if both parties to the case agree and no one else objects. Carla Kjellberg, an attorney representing Ellison, said in a statement Friday that “Keith and Kim Ellison remain jointly opposed to this effort to exploit the details of their personal life, and the lives of their children, for political gain.”
“Ms. Ellison has been clear that there was no abuse by Mr. Ellison before, during, or after their marriage,” Kjellberg said.
This week, Ellison called on Hutchison to deny the motions while speaking to reporters during a campaign stop in Rochester.
“My ex-wife, Kim, and I are good friends,” Ellison said. “She has said repeatedly that there is … nothing that has ever happened similar to what Karen Monahan falsely accused me of, so it really should not be [unsealed]. It’s unfair to my kids and unfair to her, and I hope the judge turns down the people who want to open up our divorce file.”
An attorney hired by the DFL Party to investigate the allegation could not substantiate it after Monahan refused to share a video of the incident that she has said she recorded.
Hutchison found arguments to unseal by attorneys for the Star Tribune and Alpha News more persuasive than what he described as the “broad reasons” brought by Kjellberg.
Under Minnesota law, all court records are presumed public “unless narrow, clearly delineated exclusions” apply, the referee wrote. Hutchison concluded that the Ellisons’ privacy concerns were not different from the thousands of other unsealed divorce cases in the same judicial district and agreed that the Ellisons’ concerns were “vague and speculative.”
Hutchison wrote that while he took Ellison’s security concerns seriously, he could not find specific concerns articulated in Kjellberg’s arguments to the court. The Ellisons are both elected public officials, Hutchison added, and already encounter security concerns through their positions. Hutchison pointed out that because Ellison is running for office, his daily schedule is not difficult to find. Kim Ellison is a member of the Minneapolis Board of Education.
Hutchison also did not find the Ellisons’ arguments that the records could be used “for an improper purpose” persuasive. Instead, he agreed with attorneys for the Star Tribune and Alpha News that much of what the Ellisons outlined in their arguments appeared to be news reports on what should be a public court record “in a way the parties do not find flattering or appealing.”