A federal judge has rejected a request by companies connected to President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to keep details of their ownership secret in a lawsuit claiming Maryland apartment complexes owned by the companies collected illegal fees from tenants.
The class-action suit alleges the companies charged improper late fees, which is against Maryland law. Some tenants were threatened with eviction, and there were even reports of civil arrests of tenants who owed the company money.
They wanted their ownership structure kept secret arguing that because of the involvement of Kushner in the case, there was a “compelling government interest” in keeping it private. The judge in the case ruled that the company’s arguments did not meet that threshold.
“The Defendants are no doubt correct that the presence of the Kushner (and therefore Trump) families in this case has raised its profile and attracted significant, though perhaps not ‘unprecedented,’ media attention. But increased public interest in a case does not, by itself, overcome the presumption of access. In fact, it would logically strengthen it, particularly when the interest is due to the presence of important public figures in the litigation,” U.S. District Court, Judge James Bredar wrote.
One of the company’s in question, Kushner Cos., is run by Jared Kushner’s family. Kushner stepped down as the company’s CEO and sold many of his shares last year before beginning work at the White House.
Two of the firms wanted their owner ownership details filed under court seal, keeping them private. But five news organizations – The Associated Press, ProPublica, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun and Baltimore TV station WMAR-TV – filed a motion to make the information part of the public record.
A lawyer for the media companies, Nathan Siegel, applauded the judge’s ruling. “The decision recognized the important principle that the courts are open to the public, especially in cases involving major public figures,” a statement issued by Siegel read.