Connecticut Court Ignores First Amendment, Blocks Paper From Publishing Article Based On Public Court Document
from the prior-restraint dept
I’m always amazed that there are judges out there who don’t appear to understand even the very basics about the First Amendment. And yet, we get cases like this one in Connecticut last week, in which a New Britain Superior Court judge, Stephen Frazzini, apparently had never come across the concept of prior restraint, and ordered an injunction against the Connecticut Law Tribune barring it from publishing an article based on a public court document:
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.”
Yes, since it involves juvenile court, it’s likely part of the issue involved in protecting the privacy of a child. But, again, this was information that was already filed in a public docket. If there was concern about privacy, it should have been dealt with prior to a public filing. To then issue an injunction, barring the publication of an article, is classic prior restraint and is clearly unconstitutional.