A bitter custody feud that saw actor Alec Baldwin lash out at his 11-year-old daughter in a leaked voicemail went hush-hush when a court commissioner ordered lawyers not to talk about the case and closed a hearing to the public moments after it began.
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Maren Nelson said media coverage of the dispute between Baldwin and Kim Basinger had been “emotionally traumatic” for their daughter, Ireland.
“This is only about the well-being of the child and nothing else,” Nelson said.
After yesterday’s day-long hearing, Neal Hersh, a lawyer for Basinger, said the commissioner reached a decision, but the lawyer would not disclose details.
“We are very, very pleased with the judge’s thoughtful decision about what happened here today,” Hersh said outside court.
Vicki Greene, who represents Baldwin, declined to comment about the ruling. Earlier, she refused to discuss reports that the hearing dealt with a change in Baldwin’s visitation rights after he left the phone message for his daughter.
She did say a June 5 hearing would look at who leaked the tape to the media.
“It’s not appropriate, and it’s not in Ireland’s best interest, and it will be with her for the rest of her life,” Greene said, referring to the leaking of the voicemail.
Basinger attended the hearing, wearing black-rimmed glasses, a grey jacket and black blouse. Baldwin was not in court. Greene said he feared any comments he might make would be leaked to the media.
Baldwin and Basinger divorced in 2002.
Baldwin has spent the past few weeks trying to explain why he lashed out. He issued an apology on his website, sat down with TV talk show hosts Barbara Walters and Rosie O’Donnell and asked NBC to let him out of his “30 Rock” contract to devote time to the issue of “parental alienation”.
In his message, Baldwin, 49, can be heard berating his daughter as a “rude, thoughtless little pig” for missing his call. A tape of the message was obtained by celebrity website TMZ.com and broadcast worldwide.
The actor blamed his former wife for leaking the tape, which she denied. He also suggested his comments were meant for Basinger, 53, not their daughter.
Greene said in a court filing that public disclosure of the voicemail broke a court order to keep the proceedings confidential.
The tape is only the latest issue in the custody dispute.
In October, Nelson denied a motion by Basinger’s lawyer to dismiss 12 misdemeanour counts of contempt against the actress. Basinger, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of failing to heed court orders.
She faces up to 60 days in jail and a €8,800 fine if convicted of all counts.
In November 2005, Baldwin and Basinger traded accusations of emotional instability as they argued over their rights to telephone and email time with their daughter.