Iowa high court lifts gag order
IOWA — The Iowa Supreme Court in early April lifted a gag order banning the publication of the identity of a man arrested in a prostitution sting.
On April 4, Cedar Rapids sheriffs arrested 52 people for solicitation of prostitution, and released the names of those arrested in two groups. The next day the media, including the Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG-TV, reported one group of names. Later that day, ten minutes before the Linn County Courthouse closed, one of those charged and named in the second group sought an injunction to prevent his name from being made public by the Gazette and KCRG-TV. District Judge John Siebenmann granted the injunction before the media received notice of the hearing. The media obeyed the gag order.
The Gazette and KCRG-TV filed an appeal the next day directly to the state Supreme Court in Des Moines under case law that allows a direct appeal when a judge’s authority to make an order is in question.
The media argued that the lower court did not have jurisdiction to grant the injunction because it was not within an associate district judge’s enumerated powers, and that the injunction was an unconstitutional prior restraint under the First Amendment and the Iowa Constitution. The media also noted that the information was public when the police released the names.
The state Supreme Court dismissed the injunction April 8, finding that the lower court failed to make specific findings in support of the injunction and that notice was not given to the media.
(Cedar Rapids Gazette, Inc. and Cedar Rapids Television Co. v. Iowa District Court for Linn County; Media Counsel: John Bickel, Diane Kutzko and William Courter, Cedar Rapids)