Monday, July 23, 2012

Girl is charged for naming attackers

Yahoo News reports:
A Kentucky girl who was sexually assaulted could face contempt of court charges after she tweeted the names of her juvenile attackers.

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.
A law professor adds:
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Now the motion for contempt has been withdrawn, but the gag order stands.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.


John Doe said...

I'm an ex-lawyer and NO, the gag order is not un-Constitutional. There are many exceptions to the First Amendment, and one is that the proceedings in juvenile court are confidential. Just as you cannot yell "fire" in a crowded room, or reveal confidential matters that are before a Grand Jury, or for that matter stand up in a court and tell a judge that he is an idiot for giving such a lenient sentence, you likewise cannot tell confidences gleaned from juvenile court. In my opinion she could have been held in contempt, and likely would have been but for the fact that she is a girl.

The reason for the rule is not to protect the guilty, but rather because we cheat children offenders as, well, children. We don't necessarily want to ruin their lives because of something childish and stupid they did while they were children. This vindictive little bitch wants to ruin their lives forever. I probably would want to do it as well, but then I too would be being a vindictive little bastard...

Kilyle said...

I was following your argument up until you called her a "vindictive little bitch."

Let me rephrase your comment so maybe you can better understand how you sound:

"So yeah, she was raped and all. But hey, kids will be kids! She shouldn't hold it against them like this. Shame on her!"

I realize your argument was a bit more nuanced than this, and obviously the line between sexual assault and flat-out rape can be a bit fuzzy. But you're using words like "vindictive" and "bitch" to describe a rape victim. How low can you sink?