Friday, November 28, 2014

Rare restraint on court reporting

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports:
In a ruling from the bench Monday, Nov. 24, New Britain Superior Court Judge Stephen Frazzini enjoined the Connecticut Law Tribune from publishing an article based on a court document that had previously been published on the Judicial Branch website.

Daniel J. Klau, the newspaper's lawyer, said he has already filed an appeal. He and other media law attorneys say this appears to be an extraordinarily rare case of prior restraint on free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. They say that normally pre-publication court orders have been deemed constitutional only in matters of extreme threats to public safety, on the level of national security.

Frazzini's oral ruling is currently sealed, but Klau said he is working to have it unsealed. "I am actually under a restraining order about what I can tell my own client. There are some things that I can share," said Klau, of the Hartford office of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter. "What the Law Tribune can say," he said, "is that in a child protection case on the juvenile court docket, the court granted a party's request for an injunction barring the Connecticut Law Tribune from publishing information that it lawfully obtained about the case."
My own case had even more outrageous orders. I was banned from posting public testimony that was given in open court. No child protection argument was even given, and it was done only to protect the misconduct of CPS and court officials, like Irwin Joseph, Sally Mitchell, Ken Perlmutter, and Heather Morse.
The Law Tribune immediately filed an objection to the motion, arguing that any prior restraint on publication is unconstitutional. "Prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringements on First Amendment rights," the brief states, quoting the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case of Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart.
In fact, the Connecticut Constitution provides greater protection of speech than the U.S. Constitution. In case law, the brief states, the state Supreme Court has ruled that juvenile court confidentiality does not trump First Amendment rights. ...

William Fish, of the Hartford office of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder has frequently represented The Hartford Courant in media law cases. "This sounds like a true case of prior restraint," he said. "It's outrageous. It sounds like an overreach—a clear breach of what a judge is allowed to do...

"Prior restraint of the press is only constitutional in very rare situations," said Fish. "You basically have to have a situation where someone is going to publish in advance the plans for the D-Day invasion."

James H. Smith, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, called prior restraint issues "settled case law. You can't prevent the press from printing news. Even in Juvenile Court. It's a matter of covering how the American system of justice is being handled."

He added, "Prior restraint was settled with the New York Times' Pentagon Papers case" in 1971. "The U.S. Supreme Court says that you can't stop the press from publishing a story unless it's Armageddon."
That's right. Federal court decisions have declared free speech rights to publish H-bomb secrets, and ruled against any prior restraints. And yet family and juvenile court judges act as if they are not subject to the First Amendment and the federal precedents.

The father, Eric Foy, has filed a complaint against CT DCF (aka CPS). Not sure if this was intended to be sealed. As I understand it, CPS brought accusations against the parents, and the dad blamed the mom for abusing the 3 kids. The dad's lawyer advised him to consent to giving up the kids to foster care, on the theory that he could get them back later once investigators see that it was the mom's fault. Now he has a second lawyer telling him that was a dumb idea, as the kids are stuck in foster care and he only has supervised visitation and the local psychologists are refusing to take the case.

By contrast, Canada and other do not have such free speech laws, as in the story of Suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons. She was a Canadian girl with a sad story of shame about an embarrassing photo. Canadian newspapers cannot print her name, and one is being investigated for doing so. Her father disagrees, and tells her name and story every chance he gets.


Anonymous said...

Connecticut DCF needs to be held accountable. There needs to be greater transparency. Judge Frazzini clearly made a mistake and this needs to be corrected. There is so much corruption in the Connecticut family and juvenile law courts.

Anonymous said...

Connecticut DCF violated the constitutional rights of the three children and of Attorney Eric Foy.