Plaintiff Paul Nichols is a reporter for the Bergen County Dispatch who brings a First Amendment challenge to a gag order … issued by Judge Nancy Sivilli in Myronova v. Malhan, a divorce and custody suit pending in the family division of the Essex County Superior Court. Nichols wishes to interview one of the parties in Myronova v. Malhan, but is unable to because the Gag Order restrains all parties to the litigation from discussing any aspect of the divorce proceedings.It is pending, but UCLA expert E. Volokh says:
I sympathize with the desire to shield children from hearing their parents publicly criticize each other, and more broadly from hearing public discussion of what to them is often a serious tragedy. But I don’t think that this is reason enough to suppress litigants’ speech about what they see as the injustices in the process. If citizens are to evaluate government officials’ performance — here, the performance of judges — as well as the performance of the family court system as a whole, they need to be able to hear specific details about alleged abuses. And litigants are often the only ones who are in a position to convey such details.Someone might say that this blog should be shut down, because my kids would be better off not hearing about a parental dispute.
I agree with Professor Volokh, but I would go further. My personal opinion is that most of the embarrassing family court stuff should never be admitted into evidence in the first place.
If parents had a right to the joint custody of their kids, then judges would always decide in favor of equally shared child custody unless a parent were proved unfit. That rarely happens in family court. Instead the judge decides based on the Best Interest Of The Child (BIOTCh), and that means that any character assassination, gossip, innuendo, or bogus scare story can be used to influence the judge. He is allowed to apply whatever personal prejudices he has. That is what fills the court with embarrassing nonsense that sometimes leaves a parent begging for a gag order.
In my case, I did not put any personal info online that the court did not already put on the public record. The court file does have 100s of pages of just that should never have been relevant to our case. But I did not put it there, and I cannot effectively respond to the public accusations against me unless I say what the accusations are.