I was having this thought recently about gag orders in court trials: I understand judges issuing gag orders during a case to allow for fair due process, but after the case is over and all the punishments have been handed out, are gag orders a violation of our First amendment rights?
This story, Teenage Rape Victim Facing Contempt Charges For Naming Her Attackers and its follow-up, Teenage Rape Victim Will Not Be Held In Contempt For Naming Her Attackers made me begin thinking about the purpose of gag orders. The purpose of the gag order in this case was to “protect” all the underage parties involved. Protect their names from getting into the press and having their futures and reputations tarnished. This gag order and the light plea bargain is what caused this victim to Tweet these boys’ names. This specific gag order was too wide-spread and I believed infringed on her first amendment rights. A judge should not be able to tell a person, “you cannot publicly discuss something that happened to your physical being.” It is putting shackles on a person, and taking control away from somebody who already feels that her control has been taken away.
Are there times when a gag order is good? Yes: divorce cases, especially highly emotional ones. Jack Ryan is a perfect example of this, his divorce was sealed, and this was agreed to by both parties, and a judge ruled that the media could see his divorce documents, even when both parties wanted to keep their divorce sealed. I am not an attorney, but I believe that gag orders should only be used in extreme cases, or in cases when everyone agrees.