Prior restraint

Las Vegas Review-Journal and Associated Press v. Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada

February 14, 2018

A Nevada district court judge ordered the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Associated Press to refrain from reporting on and to destroy copies of an anonymized autopsy report obtained through a public records request. The news outlets filed a petition for a writ of prohibition or mandamus in the Nevada Supreme Court to dissolve the prior restraint, and the Reporters Committee, along with the Nevada Press Association, filed a proposed amicus brief in support of that petition. The brief explains the significant news value in reporting on anonymized autopsy reports and the dangerous nature of the district court's gag order, which erroneously elevates purported privacy concerns over long-established First Amendment protections. The brief also focuses on the implications of the gag order for journalists and other members of the public who request records under the Nevada Public Records Act.


Van Zant v. Pyle

October 6, 2017

A federal district court judge in Manhattan permanently enjoined the release of a fictionalized film by Cleopatra Films about the 1977 plane crash that killed members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, because one of the co-producers, a former member of the band, was subject to a settlement agreement that limited his ability to profit off of the band's story. Cleopatra filed an expedited appeal with the Second Circuit. RCFP's amicus brief argues that the First Amendment protects films, including fictionalizations like Cleopatra's movie, that the injunction entered by the district court is a prior restraint, which is forbidden in all but the rarest of circumstances, and that even assuming Cleopatra is bound by the settlement agreement and violated it, the proper remedy is an action for damages, not a prior restraint.

Judge strikes down Pennsylvania law restricting speech of prisoners

Kimberly Chow | Prior Restraints | News | April 29, 2015
April 29, 2015

Following arguments from prisoners, prisoner rights groups, and members of the media, a judge yesterday struck down the Pennsylvania Revictimization Relief Act as unconstitutionally restricting the speech of prisoners as well as media that carry their messages.

The act allowed victims of personal injury crimes to bring civil actions against the perpetrators for “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effect of the crime on the victim,” defined as including “conduct which causes a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.”

California appellate court vacates prior restraint order

Tom Isler | Prior Restraints | News | April 20, 2015
April 20, 2015

A California appellate court reversed course on Friday and vacated what media lawyers described as an unconstitutional prior restraint order.

Last month, the court sealed a legal brief filed by the Pasadena Police Officers Association that quoted from a confidential report on the 2012 police shooting of teenager Kendrec McDade. The court’s order also directed the parties to the lawsuit, including the Los Angeles Times, which had long sought to obtain the report, to return all copies of the brief to the court. The police union didn’t move to seal the brief until nine days after it had been filed.

South Carolina Supreme Court lifts prior restraint in James Brown estate case

Tom Isler | Prior Restraints | News | March 10, 2015
March 10, 2015

The Supreme Court of South Carolina has dissolved a prior restraint against a small-town newspaper reporter covering the ongoing legal battle for the estate of singer James Brown.

The reporter, Sue Summer, had received an anonymous package containing the diary of Tommie Rae Hynie Brown, who was recently recognized by a South Carolina court as the widow of James Brown. The diary, which was filed under seal with the court, contained passages that seemed to imply that Ms. Brown was not, in fact, married to Mr. Brown.

Judge lifts prior restraint in family law case, but stands by decision

Amelia Rufer | Prior Restraints | News | December 5, 2014
December 5, 2014

A controversial prior restraint in a Connecticut familly court case has been lifted, but the judge made clear that he still believes he did the right thing in barring the Connecticut Law Tribune from reporting on a publicly available document.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Frazzini vacated the order prohibiting a newspaper from reporting on a child custody case Wednesday. Frazzini did not find that the prior restraint violated the First Amendment. Instead, he recognized in his December 3 memorandum that it was pointless to maintain the order once other media outlets disclosed the same information, and that preventing the Law Tribune from disclosing already disseminated information no longer protected or endangered the children’s interests.

In re Emma F.

December 2, 2014

A Connecticut Superior Court judge in the juvenile division, overseeing a custody dispute, issued a prior restraint order against the Connecticut Law Tribune, prohibiting a reporter from publishing information he obtained while in the courtroom and from a court document that had been posted publicly on the court website. The judge also sealed transcripts and his orders and memorandum justifying the prior restraint. The Connecticut Law Tribune appealed, and the Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal. The Reporters Committee and 48 media companies filed a motion to appear as amici curiae, arguing that the court violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments when it issued an order barring publication of information lawfully obtained from a court document posted on the court's own public website. We argued that there is a heavy presumption against prior restraints generally, and specifically under the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Oklahoma Publishing Co. v.

Nine months and counting: the injunction in Garcia v. Google continues to violate the First Amendment

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Prior Restraints | Commentary | December 3, 2014
December 3, 2014

On December 15, the Ninth Circuit will rehear oral argument in a case that has odd facts and has made terrible law. In Garcia v. Google, a panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit issued a broad mandatory injunction compelling Google to remove and take measures to prevent the publication of a controversial video—all based on a novel copyright theory. The injunction was issued in February. In March, the U.S. Copyright Office rejected the plaintiff’s attempt to register her asserted copyright. Yet despite the plaintiff’s exceedingly attenuated copyright interest, the injunction continues to be in force almost a year later, restraining Google from publishing the video.

Judge lifts prior restraint in Georgia

Tom Isler | Prior Restraints | News | November 10, 2014
November 10, 2014

A superior court judge in Georgia reversed himself on Monday and lifted an order he had entered last week enjoining the media from broadcasting or publishing a story about witness intimidation in the ongoing criminal corruption trial about educators cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta public schools.

Last Friday, Judge Jerry Baxter signed an order preventing the media from reporting a story that a witness for the prosecution had received an anonymous threatening voice mail for testifying against a former Atlanta public school superintendent. The county district attorney sought the order because, he argued, the news report might have a chilling effect on future witnesses or the jury.

European court rules Google must remove links at user's request

Cindy Gierhart | Prior Restraints | News | May 13, 2014
May 13, 2014

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled today that Google and other search engines must remove certain links if users complain – even if the information is true and lawfully posted. The ruling is grounded in what is known as an individual’s “right to be forgotten.”

While the ruling will likely have no direct effect on Internet searches within the United States, its implications will be felt around the world.