University Court Tries To Stifle Coverage Of Its Controversial Actions; Guarantees Only That It Will Be Covered More Thoroughly

from the Judge-Streisand-presiding dept

Some infighting has broken out at Baylor University. A tangled web of impeachment proceedings and sketchy behavior has resulted in some unflattering coverage of a lawsuit filed against the internal vice president of the court — whom critics claim is failing to uphold her duties and damaging the morale of the student government.

Most of this is detailed in the student paper, the Baylor Lariat. And it’s seemingly this unflattering coverage that has resulted in the university student court’s decision to issue the following gag order. (h/t to Adam Steinbaugh)

The Baylor University Student Court (hereinafter “the Court”), acting in reaction to the aforementioned case, yet to be heard in trial, hereby commands the following:

(I) That no party to the matter aforementioned, plaintiff or defendant or their respective counsel, shall make contact with any member of the Court except:

For PROCEDURAL questions, the party shall contact the Clerk of the Court, Charlotte Weston; and

For SUBSTANTIVE questions, the party shall contact the Chief Justice of the Court, Cody Coll.

Furthermore, (II) No member of the press shall make intentional contact with any member of the Court regarding the case aforementioned EXCEPT the Chief Justice of the Court, Cody Coll, who shall serve as the SOLE SPOKSPERSON [sic] FOR THE COURT.

In other words, there will be very minimal questioning of our position/authority, and SPOKSPERSON Cody Coll will be the main filter between your impertinent questions and our answers (if any). If you want to play Junior Investigative Journalist and ask difficult/embarrassing questions that don’t fall into the procedural/substantive divisions, you will be held in contempt of court and referred to the dean for further punishment. Here’s Coll justifying the court’s move.

“It’s within the purview of the chief justice to instruct the justices to not communicate with the media,” he said. “It’s also within the jurisdiction of the court to issue an order such as the one that was issued yesterday.”

Sure, it may be in the “purview” of the chief justice. But you know what else it is? Stupid. Pure, unvarnished stupid.

The internal wranglings of a university’s student government will have little to no bearing on anything happening outside of its sphere of influence. This “shut up, the court explained” gag order isn’t likely to trigger a federal First Amendment lawsuit. And, yes, this whole thing somehow ties into the 2nd Amendment (no, seriously), perhaps the most contentious of our amendments and the one virtually guaranteed to provoke only the most extreme arguments from both sides.

So, it’s mainly Baylor’s teapot tempest, but those who issued this half-assed gag order will be real adults one day with real jobs, possibly in the public sector where they could do some real damage if these irrational urges aren’t loudly and swiftly discouraged.

Even if the order is “legal” in the context of the Baylor student body court system, that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. A gag order like this, issued on the heels of negative coverage, may as well have ordered EVERYONE to talk about the student court’s failures LOUDLY and AT LENGTH and ALL OVER THE INTERNET. If the court had possessed even a little common sense and foresight, it would have handled this with the same “nothing to see here” aplomb it has handled every other courtroom battle it has dealt with to this point. Baylor’s student court may have certain powers, but it can’t demand the student press cater to its whims. Even a self-contained government has checks and balances, and here we see this incident is nothing more than a government entity attempting to route around the pesky force of accountability known as “the public.”

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Comments on “University Court Tries To Stifle Coverage Of Its Controversial Actions; Guarantees Only That It Will Be Covered More Thoroughly”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:


Did the ‘court’ happen to mention where they got the authority to silence critics, like is it stated in some rules of the school or something?

Seems like the ‘court’ thinks that “because I said so”, is sufficient, like a lot of misguided police officers in these here United States (and elsewhere in the world).

Oh, and if this is referred to the Dean of Judicial Affairs, would that not possibly result in a First Amendment challenge via a lawsuit?

jakerome (profile) says:

Re: Re: Jurisdiction

Perhaps, but the court has no power over “the media” at large. At most, they could have sway over students acting as the media. Certainly the kangaroo court can’t prohibit media from asking a questions about a court case. I mean, they can, but whatever punishment they mete out has no power outside of the ivory towers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Oooh! An opportunity for all the media that aren't "the press"

I’m pretty sure that this doesn’t apply to the Baylor student paper at all. I’m pretty sure “the press” is defined nowadays as having to be paid employees of a large media organizations. Also, every student with a blog ought to be talking with everyone involved with the case as they aren’t “the press” either.

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