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High Court refuses to review case of prior restraint of the press

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High Court refuses to review case of prior restraint of the press

  • Order prohibiting media interviews of discharged jurors will not be considered.

Feb. 24, 2003 — The U.S. Supreme Court refused today to review a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that upheld a trial court judge’s order barring journalists from interviewing discharged jurors after the jury failed to reach a verdict in the first trial of a rabbi charged with arranging his wife’s murder.

The Philadelphia Inquirer petitioned the Court to review the case, which it argued was “an expansive prior restraint on the press.” Rabbi Fred Nuelander was convicted in a second trial in 2002.

“The order barred the press from contacting or attempting to interview discharged jurors for any reason, regarding any subject, and even if the juror initiated such contact,” the Inquirer wrote in its petition to the Court.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by 11 media organizations, supported the Inquirer’s petition for review. “The public and the press rely on interviews of discharged jurors to explain the outcome of a particular trial, the experience of serving on a jury and the operation of the judicial system. Such stories often lead to exposure of misconduct or abuse,” the Reporters Committee wrote in its friend-of-the-court brief.

The Inquirer filed its petition after a New Jersey Superior Court held four of its reporters in contempt for investigating and publishing an article regarding whether the forewoman of the first jury was a Pennsylvania resident and properly served on the New Jersey panel.

The petition to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected, but the Inquirer continues to fight the contempt charges issued against these reporters, who face jail, community service or fines.

(In re Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc.: Media Counsel: Seth Waxman, Wilmer, Culter & Pickering, Washington, D.C.) ST

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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