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Thomas J. Henry is not a shy man. Since moving to San Antonio from Corpus Christi about six years ago he has plastered his face on every available surface with the possible exception of the space above the urinals at Buc-ee’s freeway rest stops.
You’ve seen him (and seen him and seen him and … ) on television going from his chauffeured Rolls-Royce to his private jet, or vice-versa. You can’t go on the internet without him popping up annoyingly in an ad. His newspaper ads run daily and prominently. He’s on billboards and even bus benches.
What’s more, he made a huge splash by donating a million bucks to help Nico LaHood unseat longtime District Attorney Susan Reed in 2014.
Now, however, Henry has gone shy on us. He wants to stay out of the public eye. He is asking a district judge in San Antonio to close the courtroom, put a sort of gag order on lawyers and parties involved, and seal all court documents in connection with a divorce suit filed by his wife.
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After a hearing Monday, the sides appear to have agreed not to disclose documents to the media, but Judge Cynthia Marie Chapa put off ruling on closing the courtroom to outsiders and sealing court documents in the case.
The judge must deny the motion!
I would like to make the case that the Constitution requires the courtroom and the records to be accessible to the public, but I can’t. If it were a criminal trial, there is case law ruling that an open trial is constitutionally required. But according to a trusted expert, that is not true for lawsuits. Confidentiality is allowed, especially in cases of industrial secrets.
In one of his filings Henry asserts that “open proceedings in this cause will result in serious and imminent damage to Thomas J. Henry, Thomas J. Henry’s personal and professional reputations, and to Thomas J. Henry’s business entities.”
I think it’s good public policy to close courtrooms and seal records only for very serious reasons, but the decision is for the judge.
Frankly, I can’t think of any other public policy reason that we members of the public must be allowed access except: We deserve it.
First, we are forced to encounter Henry’s dour face multiple times a day due to his relentless advertising.
Second, recently, due to a separate lawsuit in which Henry is bankrolling his girlfriend against a company she and her husband each have an interest in, we have been treated to publicity showing a more intimate aspect of the wealthy lawyer. (The girlfriend, Evelin Crossland, and her husband have sued each other for divorce. The cases are pending.)
We see Thomas smiling at an earlier birthday party for himself in which he hired Cardi B for entertainment. We see television coverage of him dancing at the outrageous $6 million quinceañera he and his wife, Azteca, threw for their daughter Maya. We saw a YouTube video series – no longer available – titled “Hangin’ with Los Henrys.” It documented in vibrant color the excesses of their lives.
I personally was glad to see him smiling and having fun. You’d never guess he was capable of either from his commercials.
More recently we’ve seen the sexy Instagram postings of Crossland. In one she’s sitting on a plush seat in what looks like a large private jet, likely Henry’s. She’s wearing a crop top and short shorts, with her long crossed legs propped on the table in front of her. On it is a vase of red and pink roses, a bottle of champagne, and a large pile of caviar. It’s dated Feb. 14, and the caption is: “My Valentine.” A red heart emoji punctuates it.
It’s not exactly a private Valentine card. Henry has 9,761 Instagram followers, of which 1,017 “liked” the photograph as of Monday.
Other Instagram photos show her on the beach, posing in an alluring outfit, and draped over Henry in an embrace somewhere in Austin.
Inquiring minds want to know, so Evelin is 30, Azteca is 42, Thomas Jude is 58. I don’t know the ages of his previous two wives, or of the five children he had by them.
All of this is quite titillating, but why must Chapa rule against his motions to exclude the press and public from the trial and seal all the normally public documents that will be filed in it?
I can’t make the case that there is a strong public policy reason for catering to public prurience. But I can say this. Thomas J. Henry has invited us into his professional life by spending untold thousands of dollars to tell us what a successful lawyer he is. And he has invited us into his private life through the likes of Instagram and YouTube to see him partying with his family and then cavorting with his new squeeze.
Now he wants to kick us out. That’s simply wrong. We deserve to know how this very public phase ends.
We deserve The Rest of the Story.