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Judge threatens media with jail for publishing jurors' names

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         WASHINGTON         Secret Courts         Apr 6, 2001    

Judge threatens media with jail for publishing jurors’ names

  • In a prosecution against a man accused of stalking federal employees, a federal judge in Washington has also sealed the entire case file.

A federal district judge has threatened to jail reporters for contempt of court if they published the names of jurors in the trial of Jim Bell, who is accused of stalking IRS agents. The jurors names are public records available at the courthouse or from an electronic file of court records. U.S. District judge Jack Tanner also sealed the entire case file.

The case involves the federal prosecution of Bell, the author of a book called “Assassination Politics,” who roused the ire of federal agents because he compiled information about federal employees from public records databases. Federal prosecutors claim his conduct constitutes criminal stalking. Bell is not accused of threatening anyone, but prosecutors said that the compilation of data in conjunction with previously published political essays constituted stalking.

Regarding the judge’s order in the case, Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told “Unfortunately, many judges seem to think that the old, well-established standards barring prior restraints on publication of truthful, lawfully obtained information don’t apply to electronic records or other court information,” Leslie said. “They do.” reported that Tanner made his ruling after online archivist John Young, who runs the Web site, pointed out to prosecutors that the jury list was available on the electronic court data system known as Pacer.

(U.S. v. Bell) AG

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© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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