Newspapers, judge disagree over publishing juvenile’s name
OHIO–Three newspapers may be in trouble with a juvenile court judge who ordered them not to publish the name of a juvenile defendant in a criminal proceeding.
The newspapers published the information after the Ohio Supreme Court in late June granted without explanation the media’s request for an “alternative writ.” The newspapers said they believed such an order authorized publication. The juvenile court judge disagreed, saying the order did not overturn his gag order. Alternative writs often require lower courts to revoke an order or show cause why it should not be revoked.
The parties have asked the Ohio high court for a clarification.
The controversy arose after the News-Herald of Port Clinton, later joined by The News-Messenger in Fremont and the Sandusky Register, filed suit after an Ottawa County Juvenile Court judge issued an order barring reporters from publishing testimony or information they heard at a juvenile hearing. The judge permitted reporters to attend the hearing, but ordered them not to report on the proceedings until he decided whether the individual, charged with shooting at a sheriff’s deputy’s house, would be tried as a minor or an adult.
The judge stated that he issued the order forbidding the reporting because if the defendant is not tried as an adult, the hearing would be deemed part of a juvenile proceeding, which he believed should be closed to the public. The judge allowed attendance by the media in case the defendant is later tried as an adult, in which case all hearings would be open, he said.
However, the newspapers argued that the court was attempting to enforce an unconstitutional prior restraint by prohibiting publication after the reporters already had the information. The newspapers also argued that Ohio law does not permit a judge to automatically bar access to a juvenile proceeding without cause, so the hearing should be open whether the defendant is ultimately tried as an adult or juvenile. Cause could be found only if evidence shows that open proceedings would cause great injury to the interests of the juvenile.
There has been no decision on the merits of the lower court judge’s original order barring publication.
(News-Herald v. Ottawa County Court; Media Counsel: David Marburger, Cleveland)