Media organizations should have been granted access to the Anamarie Martinez child protection proceedings in New Mexico, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed today with the New Mexico Supreme Court.
The three-year-old’s case made national news when state officials sought to take her from her parents’ custody, claiming that they endangered her life by failing to treat her extreme obesity. The judge assigned to the case, Tommy Jewell, closed the courtroom and excluded the media from the proceedings, even though a New Mexico statute clearly provides that the media should be permitted to attend child protection proceedings. Judge Jewell also imposed a gag order on the parties, ordering them to not speak with the media.
News organizations intervened in the case and asked the state Supreme Court to find that the judge had erred.
“The New Mexico statute requiring open hearings in child custody proceedings is unambiguous,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee. “The judge’s closure of the courtroom prevented public oversight of the proceeding in which a small child was taken from her parents.”
The Reporters Committee argued that Judge Jewell should not have excluded the media because the state statute allowing for media access to child protection was consistent with general legal principles in favor of open courts. The Committee also argued that the gag order was unconstitutional because it targeted the media. Finally, the Committee argued that the courtroom closure and the gag order were improper because the court failed to follow appropriate procedures before taking such actions.
The amicus curiae brief in Albuquerque Journal, et al. v. Jewell can be found on the Reporters Committee’s web site at: https://www.rcfp.org/news/documents/albjournal.html