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    You Betcha! Bristol and Levi Kick Off Custody Battle

    Briston Palin, Tripp Palin, Levi Johnston Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images, Eugene Gologursky, AP Photo/ Al Grillo

    We're guessing Levi Johnston's Playgirl spread can't be a good bargaining chip.

    An Alaska judge has rejected a request filed by lawyers representing former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's 19-year-old daughter, Bristol, to keep her custody case with 19-year-old baby daddy Levi Johnston secret.

    Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen's Dec. 23 decision comes six weeks after Palin submitted documents in early November, using pseudonyms to avoid the glare of the media, seeking full legal and physical custody over their 1-year-old son, Tripp, and asking Johnston to fork over child support.

    The teenage Palin suggested that Levi's shameless promotional activities, including his "risque" photo shoot for Playgirl, and life in the spotlight harmed the tot and Johnston was "not yet mature enough to take on siginificant parental responsibilities."

    Ouch. Talk about going rogue.

    Her lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, argued in court papers obtained by E! News that there was also plenty of legal precedent to keep the custody battle sealed, citing similar cases involving other famous couples, Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger for example.

    "The parties' respective celebrity status mandates the protection of the baby...whose privacy interests should be protected until and unless one day the child decides otherwise," wrote the legal eagle.

    Read the filings

    But last week's ruling, however, ensures the custody battle will be heavily scrutinized by a public captivated by the ongoing feud between Bristol's old hockey-playing beau and the moose-hunting former Republican vice presidential nominee.

    Responding to Palin's petition, Johnston stated that he's happy to share custody with his high school sweetheart, with whom he split shortly after Tripp's birth a year ago.

    He also insisted that he's capable of providing for their son (no doubt aided by his newfound celebrity) and that airing their dispute in public will protect him from any would-be malice on the part of Bristol's mom, whom he accused of "meddling."

    "I know that public scrutiny will simplify this matter and act as a check against anyone's need to be overly vindictive, aggressive or malicious, not that Bristol would ever be that way, nor that I would. But her mother is powerful, politically ambitious and has a reputation for being extremely vindictive," Johnston said in his affidavit. "So, I think a public case might go a long way in reducing Sarah Palin's instinct to attack."

    "None of this is true; my mother is not involved," shot back Bristol in a sworn statement, though she did acknowledge the ex-gov's role as grandmother.

    Johnston's attorney, Rex Butler, however, disputed that notion, pointing out that the pleadings filed thus far by Bristol's team have attachments an inch thick. 

    "That's her money at work," the lawyer told E! News. "The fact that mom is paying for everything...that tells you right there that mom has an interest and she's going to protect that interest.  I don't know that Bristol's working in such a way that she can support [Tripp]."

    Butler also revealed that up until two weeks ago the Palins were making it difficult for Levi to exercise his visitation rights, contradicting what Sarah Palin told Oprah on The Oprah Winfrey Show, that she'd welcome him with open arms.

    Bristol Palin meanwhile accused Levi of using the custody case to hype a potential reality TV series about his life in the Last Frontier.

    So far no word on Johnston getting his own reality show, though his lawyer did confirm he's in talks. Levi added that he merely "wants a simple case on the merits."

    And now it looks like he'll get it.

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