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Court will not review ban on coverage of police misconduct

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  1. Prior Restraint

    NMU         FLORIDA         Prior Restraints         Dec 16, 1999    

Court will not review ban on coverage of police misconduct

  • An order prohibiting coverage of background information related to criminal charges against undercover officers stands after review of the prior restraint was denied.

A Florida intermediate appellate court on Dec. 1 refused to hear the appeal of a Miami television station over a trial court’s order prohibiting media from publishing background information about undercover police officers facing criminal charges and ordering redaction of the same information in the court file.

A three-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami unanimously denied the request of a CBS television affiliate for review of the prior restraint. The court did not issue an opinion accompanying its denial of the request.

WFOR-TV had argued to the appellate court that the trial court’s order unconstitutionally prohibited the media from reporting on information taken from public records and that the criminal defendants had not shown a justification for entry of the prior restraint. The television station also argued that the trial court had not addressed in its opinion whether other means existed for advancing its objective and whether its prior restraint would be effective.

WFOR-TV was protesting the Sept. 20 ruling of Miami Circuit Judge Victoria Platzer that prohibited the publication of the home addresses, social security numbers, and photographs of the undercover police officers and instructed court personnel to redact the information from the court files. In support of her ruling, Platzer cited an undercover officer exception to the state’s Public Records Act. “The potential harm, including loss of human life, which could result if the media were not restrained . . . when weighed against the public’s need to know that limited information is overwhelmingly in favor of imposing such a restraint,” she wrote.

Although she did not limit her order to information gleaned from the court file, Platzer noted that the media could request reconsideration of the prior restraint if it were to produce evidence that it received the information in question “through lawful means.”

The underlying case concerns four Miami-Dade police narcotics officers charged with false imprisonment, perjury, conspiracy, and official misconduct.

(Group W/CBS Stations Partners v. Diaz et al.; Media Counsel: Alan Rosenthal and Jack R. Reiter, Miami)


© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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