Dow Jones opposes prior restraint by judicial panel
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Wall Street Journal in late November asked Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to reverse a court order barring the Journal from reporting details of a judicial panel’s decision.
The Journal had asked the panel of federal judges in October for access to a sealed report it believes former Whitewater independent counsel Robert Fiske filed upon his departure. The panel, which oversees the independent counsel’s office, ruled against the Journal, and ordered the paper not to disclose the contents of the decision.
The petition by Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., some of which was filed under seal, characterizes the panel’s order as an unconstitutional prior restraint.
Dow Jones said in its petition to Rehnquist that it believes Fiske and Kenneth Starr, who replaced Fiske as independent counsel, may have filed sealed responses to the Journal’s initial motion to unseal.
A federal regulation required Fiske to file a final report with the court upon his departure. The regulation says the report must describe the disposition of the investigation and the reasons for not prosecuting any matter within the counsel’s jurisdiction.
The panel replaced Fiske with Starr in August after Congress reenacted the law providing for judicial appointment of independent counsels, which expired in January.
(In re Dow Jones & Co.; Media Counsel: Robert Sack, New York)