State appeals court upholds judge’s order barring reports on juvenile records
MINNESOTA — The Minnesota Court of Appeals in St. Paul ruled in early November that a trial judge was correct in restricting journalists from reporting the juvenile records and names of three girls who were allegedly molested by an employee of a state youth ranch for troubled teen-agers.
Prior to trial, Mower County Judge James Mork said he would permit the defense to cross-examine the girls about their prior juvenile records in a closed courtroom. The media objected and a hearing was set for the next day.
Mark Anfinson, representing the Austin Daily Herald and the Post Bulletin Co., agreed not to publish the names of the victims, but balked at not printing their juvenile records. The next day Mork rescinded the exclusionary order, permitting reporters, but not the public, to attend the proceedings but not to publish information about the victims’ criminal records. The next day Anfinson asked the appeals court to strike down the restraint on publishing the information about the criminal records.
In upholding Mork’s order, Chief Judge Paul Anderson said it did not constitute a prior restraint because the media were free to report what they already knew about the victims’ background or information they might get from other sources in the future. However, Anderson said the court was troubled by the selective nature of permitted access. “By permitting some reporting while prohibiting other reporting, the trial court in effect parcels out news to the press and the public,” the opinion said.
Anfinson said he plans to appeal the ruling.
(Austin Daily Herald and Post-Bulletin Co. v. Honorable James Mork; Media Counsel: Mark Anfinson; Minneapolis)