A Kentucky girl who was sexually assaulted could face contempt of court charges after she tweeted the names of her juvenile attackers.A law professor adds:
Savannah Dietrich, the 17-year-old victim, was frustrated by a plea deal reached late last month by the two boys who assaulted her, and took to Twitter to expose them--violating a court order to keep their names confidential.
"There you go, lock me up," Dietrich tweeted after naming the perpetrators. "I'm not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell." Her Twitter account has since been closed.
Dietrich’s problem, I think, is that she seems to have violated the court order, rather than challenging it when it was entered. (All this is based on what I read in the newspaper story, which I realize may not be fully accurate.) Under Walker v. City of Birmingham (1967), a person generally is not allowed to violate even an unconstitutional court order; he must challenge it on appeal (or via a similar procedure, such as mandamus), or abide by it. But even that “collateral bar” rule has an exception for “transparently invalid” court orders, and it seems to me this exception applies here. And in any event, the collateral bar rule can’t justify the judge’s decision in issuing this order.It seems to me that she can certainly describe her experience, and whatever else she knew before the court hearing. The problem would be in describing the juvenile court outcome, when she only learned that from some closed and confidential hearing that she was privileged to attend.
The boys could argue that they only agreed to the plea bargain because they were promised the confidentiality of the juvenile court, and that they are being unfairly maligned. Nevertheless, I think that the girl has a clear-cut free speech right to tell her story.
Now the motion for contempt has been withdrawn, but the gag order stands.
In my experience with the family court, confidentiality orders were only used to cover up corruption and incompetence. I was forbidden to quote from the Sally Mitchell and Ken Perlmutter reports. In other cases, there might be some privacy interest, such as the kid being on ritalin or the wife being on prozac, but there was nothing like that in these reports. Just a lot of nonsensical allegations about an alarm clock, dogs, cooking, and a math contest. Anyone who could read Perlmutter's report could see that he was an incompetent crook with an anti-family value system.
I hope Dietrich's case gets a lot of publicity. Judges should not be issuing orders against free speech rights.