D.C. judge issues injunction against news organization

Mara Zimmerman | Prior Restraints | Feature | July 26, 2010

The National Law Journal has been prohibited by court order from publishing information it obtained legally.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff issued a temporary restraining order against the National Law Journal last Friday after she discovered the news organization was planning to publish a story regarding the fee dispute between District of Columbia-based law firm Hogan Lovells and one of its former clients, beverage maker POM Wonderful. POM had hired Hogan Lovells to represent the company during a regulatory investigation.

According to the terms of Bartnoff’s order, the Journal is not allowed to publish certain information, including the name of the government agency that was conducting the investigation. The news organization had legally obtained the information through public court documents before POM convinced the court that six of the documents should be sealed.

“If I am throwing 80 years of First Amendment jurisprudence on its head, so be it,” the judge reportedly said. She also allegedly indicated that the court’s interest in maintaining the integrity of the docket overrides First Amendment concerns.

The National Law Journal believes that Judge Bartnoff’s actions violate the First Amendment and is currently working on an appeal.