The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on Friday applauded a decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court to dissolve a gag order in the controversial child protection proceedings of an obese child.
“The Supreme Court’s decision affirms our belief that child custody proceedings should not be hidden from the public,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “This was a philosophy obviously shared by the New Mexico Legislature when it allowed these proceedings to be open.”
Although the Court ruled the gag order invalid on Wednesday, it also said the order could be reinstated if the judge assigned to the case supported his decision with factual findings.
Children’s Court Judge Tommy Jewell imposed a gag order in the case of Anamarie Martinez-Regino, a three-year-old who was taken from her parents’ custody after state officials claimed her parents failed to deal with the child’s obesity. A group of news organizations petitioned the state Supreme Court after they were denied access to any court proceedings related to the case. The petitioners in the case include the Associated Press, the Albuquerque Journal, The Albuquerque Tribune, KRQE and KOAT.
Marty Esquivel, attorney for the petitioners, asked the Court to dissolve the gag order because the case against the parents was dismissed last week.
The Reporters Committee filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, arguing that the exclusion of the media from court proceedings violated the state’s open courts policy. The Committee also cited a New Mexico statute that allows for media access to child custody proceedings. Moreover, the Committee questioned the constitutionality of a gag order targeting the media and the improper manner in which the order was issued.
The brief in Albuquerque Journal, et al. v. Jewell can be found at: http//www.rcfp.org/news/documents/albjournal.html