Federal judge lifts gag order that barred parties to suit from talking to media
SOUTH CAROLINA — A federal district judge in Charleston lifted a four-day-old gag order in late January that he had placed on the parties in a lawsuit filed by pregnant women who were tested for drug use by the Medical University of South Carolina.
U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck issued the order orally January 21, prohibiting the parties from discussing the case with the media. The suit against the Medical University of South Carolina and the city of Charleston was brought by women who allege they were tested for drug use without their knowledge when they sought prenatal care from the medical center. The information was then turned over to the police without their consent, the suit alleges.
The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York City, which represents the plaintiffs, immediately filed a motion with the court opposing the order.
Four days later, Harvard law Professor Laurence Tribe argued that the order was an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech. Tribe argued that the defendants failed to meet the clear and present danger test established by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Hirsckop v. Snead on judicially imposed prior restraints on attorney speech.
Judge Houck lifted the gag order later that day.
(Ferguson v. City of Charleston; Plaintiff’s Counsel: Lynn Paltrow; New York City)