Appeals Court Overrules Judge's Censorship of Newspaper

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Appeals Court Overrules Judge's Censorship of Newspaper

Thu Oct 02, 2008 @ 11:40PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

A California Appeals Court has ruled that a lower court can't bar the Orange County Register, whose parent company is being sued in a class action lawsuit, from publishing any witness testimony.

In the case, newspaper delivery workers are suing Freedom Communications for $100 million because they were classified as independent contractors when they were entitled to the benefits due employees. Freedom Communications owns The Orange County Register, and two weeks ago, Superior Court Judge David C. Velasquez posed a gag order on the Register. Legal scholars denounced the ruling as a violation of free speech.

Freedom filed an emergency appeal, and the Fourth Appellate Division agreed to review. In the decision on Monday, the court agreed with the appellant that the gag order represented a "prior restraint," as barred by the U.S. Constitution and several U.S. Supreme Court cases. The court writes that "the potential danger used to justify the prior restraint is not sufficiently compelling" and that "less restrictive alternatives are available to protect plaintiffs’ fair trial rights."

The appeals court recommended that the judge in the case could admonish witnesses not to read press accounts of the trial.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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