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Supreme Court upholds newspaper's right to publish

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  1. Court Access

    NMU         KENTUCKY         Secret Courts         Dec 20, 2002    

Supreme Court upholds newspaper’s right to publish

  • The Courier-Journal cannot be held in contempt for publishing material ordered sealed by the court if the newspaper did not obtain the information directly from the sealed court records.

An order sealing court records does not prevent a newspaper from reporting about the sealed material if the information is derived from independent investigation, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Dec. 19.

Chief Justice Joseph Lambert’s order came after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington filed a motion to hold The [Louisville] Courier-Journal in contempt for its Aug. 24 article about a lawsuit involving allegations of sex abuse by Catholic priests that summarized the contents of records sealed by the court.

“An order sealing a record or part thereof should not be read as creating a prior restraint on publication of the contents of the sealed material, unless the order expressly says so,” wrote Lambert. “Thus, the restraint on publication placed by our order went no further than precluding the Courier-Journal from publishing or disseminating any information obtained directly from court records or through court process. It did not preclude independent investigation of the contents of the material contained in the record.”

Because there was no proof that the Courier-Journal had seen or received copies of the sealed material, it could not be held in contempt.

(Roman Catholic Diocese of Lexington v. Noble: Media counsel: Jon Fleischaker, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, Louisville, Ky.) ST


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