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Some Bullock-James divorce papers released

Official says 'timing issue' kept documents from media.

Isadora Vail
Sandra Bullock

Several documents in the final divorce decree of Sandra Bullock and Jesse James were made public Tuesday after reporters were told Monday that the entire case was sealed.

The answers were still fuzzy as to why the release of the documents was delayed, but one answer from court clerks was that the case was in the middle of being entered into the court computer system.

Bullock filed for divorce from James in Travis County in April after several women revealed the TV reality star's serial infidelity, according to court records.

An order to seal all documents in the case, "except those documents that are required by law to be recorded in the minutes of the court," was signed by visiting Judge Jon Wisser, on Monday morning.

Wisser said he signed the order without much thought because he knew the case would be very public and that both attorneys representing Bullock and James agreed that the documents be sealed.

"I've signed one (order to seal) before in divorce cases, and I honestly didn't give it much thought," Wisser said in a telephone interview. "It's not often that I get two attorneys that agree on something."

Wisser couldn't elaborate on the language of the order to seal or say which documents should have been available Monday.

But the problem might not lay with the language of the order to seal, said Michelle Brinkman, Travis County's chief deputy clerk.

"I think it was a timing issue because we had to get a copy of the divorce decree in the minutes, and at that time, the documents had not been scanned into the computer," she said.

A miscommunication could have occurred, she said, because until a clerk can see a hard copy of the order to seal, they are told verbally that the case is sealed.

"It's not until they see or get the order that they will know what in the case is sealed," Brinkman said. "Then they will know the exceptions and specifics."

Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedures, civil court records can be sealed if there is "a specific, serious and substantial interest which clearly outweighs: this presumption of openness; any probable adverse effect that sealing will have upon the general public health or safety; no less restrictive means than sealing records will adequately and effectively protect."

As for the Bullock and James divorce decree itself, there isn't much to it.

Besides saying that the Academy Award-winning actress would have to help James procure conversion insurance through the Screen Actors Guild health plan, decree simply says there is no alimony and all itemized property assets were handled in private meetings between their lawyers.

ivail@statesman.com; 445-3763