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Fifth Circuit expedites journalist's gag order appeal

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The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans (5th Cir.) yesterday granted a Texas journalist's request to expedite his appeal…

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans (5th Cir.) yesterday granted a Texas journalist's request to expedite his appeal of a gag order issued in the pre-trial proceedings of a Saudi citizen accused of the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S.

Lubbock, Texas, broadcast journalist James Clark is contesting the gag order issued in U.S. v. Aldawsari by U.S. District Court Judge Sam Cummings in Lubbock, a case in which authorities allege the defendant had researched a variety of different U.S. targets, including the Texas home of former President George W. Bush. Citing the "extraordinary amount of media coverage" in the case and a concern about potentially prejudicing the trial, Cummings in March ordered "that the parties, their representatives, or their attorneys of record SHALL NOT communicate with the news media concerning this case."

Clark, who is representing himself, asked Cummings in April to narrow the gag order on First Amendment grounds. Cummings refused, and Clark sought relief from the Fifth Circuit. The appellate court denied Clark's initial petition last month on procedural grounds, but allowed Clark to proceed through the ordinary appellate process.

In an order dated yesterday, the appellate court granted Clark's request to expedite the appeal, but denied his request to stay the gag order. Under the schedule set by the court, Clark's opening brief is due August 18. Response briefs are due September 2, and any reply is due September 9.