While tabloids continue to seize on every last speculative detail of the divorce between A-list country stars Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, serious new concerns about the legalities of how the divorce was handled by the State of Oklahoma have been raised, and if the celebrity couple benefited from preferential treatment from the judge who filed the paperwork. The Freedom of Information Act, and a brand new law in Oklahoma forbids individuals from receiving special treatment in the sealing of divorce records in the state, and the author of that law believes it was violated in the case of the recent Blake and Miranda split.
“There’s some shenanigans going on,” former State Representative and Norman, Oklahoma attorney Aaron Stiles told News OK on Monday (7-27). “Oh, yeah, they’re definitely not following the law on it. I can’t imagine a scenario where you would ever seal an entire civil or divorce case.”
On July 20th it was announced that after four years of marriage and endless tabloid stories about the couple’s martial troubles, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert had filed for divorce. “This is not the future we envisioned,” the couple said in a statement. “And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.”
However the manner in which they filed for the divorce and kept it private appears to have been handled in a way that violated Oklahoma laws. “The average citizen, they don’t get their cases sealed. Their records are made public,” explains former Rep. Aaron Stiles.
The new Oklahoma law passed in 2014 and put in effect in November requires judges to seal only portions of cases subject to confidentiality, while the remainder of the records must stay open. In the case of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert divorce, only their initials “B.T.S. vs. M.L.S.” were given, as well as a docket sheet that only listed the legal filings. Blake Shelton originally filed for divorce on July 6th, but the decree dissolving the marriage wasn’t filed until July 20th.
But it’s not just that the documents were sealed, but how they were sealed that is being called into serious question. According to the new Oklahoma law, if a judge decides to seal portions of a divorce decree, they must announce publicly that the filing is being sealed. In the case of Blake and Miranda, that public declaration never occurred.
Even more suspicious, instead of filing for the divorce in their home county, the celebrity couple filed in Pottawatomie County. The filing was also handled by an associate district judge named John Gardner who is conveniently set to retire from the bench in “a few days.”
What is not clear at the moment is what the result could be if the divorce is found to have violated Oklahoma law, and if Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, or their attorneys may be subject to ramifications, or just Judge Gardner.
The new Oklahoma law was put in place specifically for cases such as the Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert divorce. It was written and passed because of the common occurrence of judges to seal the divorce records of personal friends and public individuals, while average citizens could not benefit from such a move.
“All it is is about protecting their buddies and cronyism,” Aaron Stiles says. “Somebody needs to put rogue judges in their place. They’re not a dictatorship.”