- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A judge’s ruling has revealed a heated legal custody battle between former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter and the father of Mrs. Palin’s grandson.

The request by Bristol Palin, Mrs. Palin’s eldest daughter, to keep the proceedings closed was denied last week by a Superior Court judge. A temporary order had authorized the use of pseudonyms while the court was considering the request, which stated that no good “could result to the child by an onslaught of media.”

Levi Johnston, the father of 1-year-old Tripp, has pushed for open court proceedings, saying he “just wants a simple case on the merits.”

“I do not feel protected against Sarah Palin in a closed proceeding,” Mr. Johnston said in an affidavit. “I hope that if it is open, she will stay out of it. Bristol’s attorney is her attorney.”

Miss Palin’s petition for sole custody and child support, filed in early November, also seeks a visitation schedule for Mr. Johnston. Miss Palin said her ex-fiance has exercised “sporadic visitation rights.”

Relations between the Palins and Mr. Johnston and his family frequently have been strained since the couple broke off their engagement after their son was born in late December 2008.

Mr. Johnston denies in court documents that he has avoided his responsibilities. He is seeking shared custody.

Mrs. Palin resigned the Alaska governorship in July.

Mrs. Palin announced her daughter’s pregnancy days after being named the running mate of Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate.

Miss Palin’s custody petition calls Mr. Johnston’s recent nude photo shoot with Playgirl magazine “risque.”

The document also notes that Mr. Johnston’s mother, Sherry Johnston, should not be allowed unsupervised visits with the baby following her drug arrest. Mrs. Johnston, who is serving out most of her three-year sentence under home confinement, was sentenced last month on a guilty plea to one count of possession with intent to deliver the painkiller OxyContin.

Miss Palin’s custody petition also suggested Mr. Johnston may have his own issues with substance abuse, saying he made statements about seeking “weed” on Twitter.

Mr. Johnston denies making such a statement, saying the Twitter account “is a fraud” and that he doesn’t have an account on the popular online social networking site.

In a motion opposing closed proceedings, Mr. Johnston’s attorney, Rex Butler, argued that Miss Palin had not shown what sort of evidence could stigmatize the child.

“This case presents a custody case with similar facts that attend open cases every day in the Alaska court system,” Mr. Butler wrote.

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