Candidate's divorce among hidden cases

 

dchristensen@MiamiHerald.com

A candidate for a Broward judgeship got a secret divorce in Palm Beach County, but said she never asked that it be completely hidden from public view.

Broward chief traffic magistrate Brenda Di Ioia got divorced from Paul Prager three years ago.

But, according to Di Ioia's lawyer, she and Prager only asked a judge to seal their case, as allowed by law, not remove it from the public docket. The practice of hiding cases - which has occurred in Broward, Palm Beach and other Florida counties - is known as "super-sealing."

"She asked for sealing, that's all she asked for, " said Keith Grumer, Di Ioia's attorney. "I think it was done in error."

MAINLY PUBLIC RECORD

Under Florida law, divorces, like most court cases, are generally part of the public record.

Di Ioia's divorce surfaced as Palm Beach County court officials continue to inquire into "super sealed" cases. It originally was filed in Broward, but transferred to Palm Beach at Prager's request, said Grumer, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer.

Di Ioia's divorce is one of 10 Palm Beach divorces that were kept on a secret docket since 2001, the Post reported Sunday. Each is under review.

MANY HIDDEN CASES

The Miami Herald reported in April that more than 100 civil cases were kept on a secret docket in Broward during the same period. Clerks found an additional 314 cases were hidden between 1989 and 2001, The Herald reported this month.

Nearly all of the divorces in Palm Beach County, including Di Ioia's, were sealed without the public notice that the law requires, the Post reported.

The judge who ordered Di Ioia's case sealed in March 2003 was Peter Blanc, the Post said. Blanc couldn't be reached for comment.

Di Ioia, 41, would not talk about her case, but told the Palm Beach Post it was sealed because of her work as a public official. "Defendants try to find me. I don't want my children's names out there, " she said.

During 13 years as a magistrate, she has presided over thousands of traffic cases. She also heads a Broward court program that enforces misdemeanor sentences.

REVIEW SOUGHT

Palm Beach County Chief Judge Kathleen Kroll asked Family Court Judge Charles E. Burton to review the sealing order in Di Ioia's case.

Kroll wants Burton to determine "what should or should not actually be sealed."

Di Ioia is among four Broward attorneys seeking a new seat on Broward's County Court bench. The others are defense lawyer Garrett Elsinger, former Miami-Dade judge Terri-Ann Miller and labor and civil rights lawyer Randy Fleischer.

Blanc couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Prager did not immediately respond to a phone message left at his office in Fort Lauderdale.

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