Wednesday, December 09, 2009

CPS gag order struck down

A Nebraska appeals court just struck down a gag order against parents who were forbidden to talk about their son. The court said:
No witness testified that further disclosure posed imminent physical or emotional harm or danger to T.T. of any magnitude. The record clearly supports the conclusion that if T.T.’s parents make further public disclosure about him, his past difficulties, or his treatment, T.T. will likely be angry and embarrassed, plus reconciliation with his family will be more difficult. On the other hand, we remember that the evidence shows he is “over it” with respect to the Wall Street Journal article. And, as said in The Pentagon Papers, a prior restraint on speech cannot be predicated on “surmise or conjecture that untoward consequence may result.” Moreover, while we do not know exactly what was disclosed in the Wall Street Journal article, it is a permissible inference that at least some of the information restricted by the gag order is already in the public domain. Thus, this factor reduces the effectiveness of the gag order, as well as undercuts any claim that the danger of harm is imminent....
It is funny to see the court complain that it did not know what was in the Wall Street Journal article. You can just read that article online here.

The point here is the state agency was trying to cover up its own failure to provide appropriate mental health services, so it asked a judge to issue a gag order against the parents. The judge issued the gag order, but the appeals court said that it violated First Amendment rights, by analogy to the Pentagon Papers case.

My ex-wife, Julie Travers, has sought and obtained two gag orders from Commissioner Irwin Joseph against me. One concerns reports on her psychological disorders, and the other concerns her abuse of her kids. I don't see how these orders can be constitutional. They serve no purpose except to cover up the bad decisions of the family court.

Update: A reader says that the last paragraph is confusing because the gag order would have had the obvious purpose of preventing embarrassment for my ex-wife. Furthermore, the reports could not have been that bad for her, he says, because she ended up winning custody.

Yes, my ex-wife presumably sought the gag order to protect herself, not the court. But Cmr. Joseph did not make any such findings similar to what the above court decision said would be required for such a gag order. I think that he was just trying to shelter himself from criticism.

The suppressed reports do not say that I am any crazier or abusive than she is. By themselves, I don't think that they prove much of anything. However, I think that my ex-wife is concerned that any reasonable person who viewed the totality of the evidence would conclude that she is the crazy and abusive one. And I do not think that the court should have issued its gag order, because it makes it harder for me to demonstrate my innocence and the bad policies of the court.

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