A federal judge ruled Friday that the apartment company owned by Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald J. Trump, cannot hide the names of the firm’s investors to protect them from what it calls unfair media coverage of a lawsuit filed by Baltimore-area tenants.
Two tenants filed a class-action lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court in late September saying the firm has charged them improper fees and threatened eviction to force payment.
A judge moved the case to the U.S. District Court of Maryland in November after the company, Westminster Management, invoked a rule that allows such a transfer if the defendants are not residents of or companies in Maryland. But Westminster is required to file documentation proving that all investors associated with the company reside outside the state.
The company asked the judge to seal those filings to shield them from public inspection.
“Given the tenor of the media’s reporting of this case, including politically-motivated innuendo no doubt intended to disparage the First Family, there is foreseeable risk of prejudice to the privacy rights and reputations of innocent private investors,” Westminster Management wrote in court papers.
The tenants opposed the attempt to conceal investors’ identities and were supported in their effort by lawyers from various media companies including The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, ProPublica, WMAR-TV and the Associated Press.
Judge James K. Bredar ruled Friday that Westminster cannot seal the court records from public view and gave the company until Feb. 9 to file the identifying information.
“Under the common law, there is a presumption that the public has access to all judicial records, and in this instance the Defendants have failed to overcome that presumption,” Bredar wrote.
Westminster said in a court filing that four of its members reside in other states: Kushner, “a resident of New York, New York and Washington, D.C.,” his parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner of New York, and Westminster MGT GP Corp. of New York. In a separate filing, Westminster said Jared Kushner and his brother, Josh, are members of another corporate entity, JK2 Westminster, and that all are based in New York. Another entity, Carroll Park Holdings LLC, has one member, Delaware-based Middle River JV LLC.