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In 1976, in Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, the U.S. Supreme Court came down hard against any form of government-imposed censorship by ruling that no government body, including courts, should issue a “prior restraint” against speech and publication.
Nevertheless, a California Superior Court judge yesterday ordered a newspaper not to publish any witness testimony in a $100 million class-action lawsuit brought by newspaper delivery workers.
The situation is somewhat unusual as the recipient of the gag order, The Orange County Register, is not only a news organization but also the defendant in the case. (The case targets the Register’s interestingly-named parent company, Freedom Communications, Inc.)
The Register reports that constitutional scholars including Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, are denouncing Judge David C. Velasquez’ order as “clearly and blatantly unconstitutional.”
The Register’s attorney, Alonzo Wickers, says he will be filing an appeal in the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana. The newspaper’s editor, Ken Brusic, is leaving open the possibility that the newspaper will defy the order.
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