In a court order filed Wednesday, Circuit Judge Don McSpadden emphasized that he's going to treat the Hunter Biden paternity lawsuit the same way he treats other family law cases that are heard in his Independence County courtroom.
Under the order, Biden "or his new counsel" must be present on Jan. 7 and be "prepared for a hearing on any outstanding motions and temporary child support."
The plaintiff, Lunden Alexis Roberts, is asking the court to declare that Biden is her child's biological father and to order him to pay child support and provide health insurance for the child, identified as "Baby Doe" in court documents.
Hunter Biden is the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate. Roberts, who is from Independence County, met Hunter Biden in Washington, D.C., according to her attorney, Clint Lancaster. She gave birth in August 2018.
Last month, Roberts' attorney filed a motion with the court that DNA testing has established, "with scientific certainty," that Hunter Biden is the baby's father.
While the DNA test results "were received into evidence without objection," McSpadden wrote that he is deferring "a finding of paternity until the Defendant or his counsel appear at the next scheduled hearing."
The name of the child will be treated as confidential and will be sealed, McSpadden stated, scrawling the words "as usual" at the end of the typed sentence. He signed the document Tuesday, and it was filed Wednesday.
"[A]ll affidavits of financial means, tax returns or other financial information concerning either party shall be treated as 'confidential financial information' ... and sealed," the order declared. The words "as usual" were jotted down in McSpadden's handwriting.
In addition "any documents or pleadings -- including interrogatories or deposition excerpts -- which contain or allude to confidential information shall be sealed as usual," the document stated.
When possible, the parties should refer to the child by his or her initials, the order stated. "As usual," McSpadden added.
Biden will also be required, by 4:30 p.m. Dec. 12, to file an affidavit of financial means, the standard, seven-page document filled out by all parties in child support cases.
Among other things, Biden will have to reveal his income, employers, net pay, "regular gifts from relatives or friends," as well as payments received from trust funds.
He'll also have to detail his debts as well as his monthly expenses, including amounts spent on rent, car payments, cigarettes, alcohol, lawn care and dry cleaning.
The seventh page of the affidavit is an Acknowledgement of Responsibilities and Consequences. "I understand that failing to comply with these provisions, or deliberately attempting to mislead the court or the opposing party, may result in my being held in contempt of court," it states.
Consequences can include fines, imposition of attorney's fees and jail time of up to six months, the document notes. "Serious violations can result in prosecution for felony perjury -- punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison," it states.
The document also requires that the court be supplied with Hunter Biden's address, phone number and other contact information.
Biden's three Arkansas attorneys withdrew from the case Monday, citing an "irreconcilable conflict" pursuant to Rule 1.16(a) of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct.
That rule requires an attorney to withdraw from a case if "(1) the representation will result in violation of the rules of professional conduct or other law; (2) the lawyer's physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer's ability to represent the client; or (3) the lawyer is discharged."
After the attorneys initially submitted a motion to withdraw, they were advised by Biden's "personal attorney" that they had been discharged, "which is additional grounds for mandatory withdrawal under 1.16(a)," their motion for withdrawal stated.
Roberts has already submitted an affidavit of financial means, according to court records.
Biden submitted an affidavit stating that he is unemployed and has had "no monthly income since May 2019," the month Roberts filed her paternity suit.
The order requires Roberts and Biden to supply the court with their "five most recent paystubs or five previous years" of tax returns," as well.
If attorneys for Roberts or Biden submit "pleadings or orders containing confidential information," they must provide two versions, one that contains all the information and another that has redacted any confidential information.
The clerk of the court will make available to the public only redacted versions of the filed documents, the order states.
Expert witnesses can be shown confidential information, provided they acknowledge that they are bound by the confidentiality provisions contained in McSpadden's order.
Neither side is allowed to disclose confidential information to other third parties "absent an order from the Court," it adds.
If confidential information is made public, McSpadden told attorneys at a hearing Monday, "you're going to answer to me."
"I take orders very, very seriously," he said.
During the hearing, he presented the suit as fairly straightforward.
"This is not a difficult case. I do these ... all day long," he said.
He also expressed disapproval of lawyers speaking to the media and then submitting billing for the time. Lancaster, the attorney for Roberts, had submitted billing relating to communications with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Associated Press Washington Bureau, The New Yorker and Inside Edition.
A U.S. House committee last month investigated allegations that President Donald Trump asked the government of Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden was named to the board of a natural gas company in that country when his father was vice president. Both Bidens have denied wrongdoing.
Republicans have sought information about Hunter Bidens' financial dealings in Ukraine, arguing that it is relevant to the ongoing inquiry. Democrats have portrayed it as a diversionary tactic.
Metro on 12/05/2019