Gag Order


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Related to Gag Order: Restraining order, gag law

Gag Order

A court order to gag or bind an unruly defendant or remove her or him from the courtroom in order to prevent further interruptions in a trial. In a trial with a great deal of notoriety, a court order directed to attorneys and witnesses not to discuss the case with the media—such order being felt necessary to assure the defendant of a fair trial. A court order, directed to the media, not to report certain aspects of a crime or criminal investigation prior to trial.

Unruly defendants who disrupt trials are very rarely literally gagged in modern courts. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the practice in cases where a defendant is particularly disruptive. In Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337, 90 S. Ct. 1057, 25 L. Ed. 2d 353 (1970), the Court affirmed that gagging or binding the defendant, or removing him or her from the courtroom, does not violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him." According to Associate Justice hugo l. black, who wrote the Court's opinion,

[A] defendant can lose his right to be present at trial if, after he has been warned by the judge that he will be removed if he continues his disruptive behavior, he nevertheless insists on conducting himself in a manner so disorderly, disruptive, and disrespectful of the court that his trial cannot be carried on with him in the courtroom. Once lost, the right to be present can, of course, be reclaimed as soon as the defendant is willing to conduct himself consistently with the decorum and respect inherent in the concept of courts and judicial proceedings.

Of the three methods that the Court found available to a judge when faced with a disruptive defendant—gag and shackles, citation for Contempt of court, and physical removal—the Court held that a gag and shackles should be considered the option of last resort. According to the Court,

Not only is it possible that the sight of shackles and gags might have a significant effect on the jury's feelings about the defendant, but the use of this technique is itself something of an affront to the very dignity and decorum of judicial proceedings that the judge is seeking to uphold.

One of the few modern instances of literal gagging occurred in the 1968 Chicago Eight trial (sometimes called the Chicago Seven trial because one defendant was removed). In that trial, federal judge Julius J. Hoffman ordered black panthers leader bobby seale bound and gagged after Seale and Hoffman engaged in vociferous argument during the trial. Seale still managed to disrupt the proceedings. He was then removed from the trial and tried separately.

Courts may attempt to control prejudicial publicity by restricting the information that trial participants can give to the press both before and during a trial. This remains the type of gag order most frequently used by courts.

Another type of gag order was for a while used by courts to restrict the press from reporting certain facts regarding a trial. This gag order became more common after the Supreme Court's 1966 decision in Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 86 S. Ct. 1507, 16 L. Ed. 2d 600, in which it reversed a criminal conviction on the grounds that Pretrial Publicity had unfairly prejudiced the jury against the defendant and denied him his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. However, in a 1976 decision, Nebraska Press Ass'n v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 96 S. Ct. 2791, 49 L. Ed. 2d 683, the Court held that pretrial gag orders on the press are unconstitutional. It ruled that such orders represent an unconstitutional Prior Restraint and violate the First Amendment, which guarantees the Freedom of the Press.

Further readings

"Challenges to Gag Orders End in Mixed Results." 2000. News Media & the Law 24 (spring): 3–5.

Minnefor, Eileen A. 1995. "Looking for Fair Trials in the Information Age: The Need for More Stringent Gag Orders against Trial Participants." University of San Francisco Law Review 30 (fall).

Weiss, Eric A., and Debra L. Slifkin. 1999. "Enforceability of Rule 26(c) Confidentiality Riders and Agreements." Federation of Insurance & Corporate Counsel Quarterly 49 (winter): 115–36.

Cross-references

Sheppard, Samuel H.

gag order

n. a judge's order prohibiting the attorneys and the parties to a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking to the media or the public about the case. The supposed intent is to prevent prejudice due to pre-trial publicity which would influence potential jurors. A gag order has the secondary purpose of preventing the lawyers from trying the case in the press and on television, and thus creating a public mood (which could get ugly) in favor of one party or the other. Based on the "freedom of the press" provision of the First Amendment, the court cannot constitutionally restrict the media from printing or broadcasting information about the case, so the only way is to put a gag on the participants under the court's control. In Canada, however, the media can be restricted, as in a famous case in which American newspapers were smuggled across the border to report on a particularly lurid sex-murder case in which a second accused person was yet to be tried. President George Bush issued a gag order which forbade federally-financed health clinics from giving out information about abortions, a gag order which President Bill Clinton rescinded (undid) on his first day in office, January 22, 1993.

References in periodicals archive ?
An Ankara court issued a gag order regarding reporting on the activities of a parliamentary commission that has been inquiring into the alleged corruption of ex-ministers.
Some media reports incorrectly claimed on Wednesday that the gag order had been issued upon the demand of Parliament Speaker Cemil Ecicek, but it later turned out that it was Hakky KE[micro]ylE-, the head of the corruption commission, who had submitted the petition for a media ban.
Many have said that the gag order, which came shortly after the prime minister complained that the media was talking "too much" about Mosul, is a government attempt to conceal its poor handling of the hostage crisis and past mistakes in its Middle East policy.
The Derzacks were scheduled to appear on several local and national television shows to discuss the foster care crisis -- until the gag order was issued.
I am sure that the reason for the gag order was so that no member of the department would say something stupid or arrogant.
Brian Liddy and Officer Paul Harper oppose a gag order and say prosecutors leaked so much information to the media that the accused officers are starting at a disadvantage and have a right to continue to assert their innocence.
That gag order, which the board would later claim was unofficial and then concede was unenforceable, was announced July 20.
The gag order was met with widespread criticism, with many politicians and journalism associations claiming that the order serves as a means to hush up the government's assumed negligence in preventing the attack from taking place.
CONCERNED over Congress leaders speaking to the media in multiple voices and the lack of a common line denting its image, the Grand Old Party on Monday issued a virtual gag order and said only authorised spokespersons were allowed to speak for it.
Vogt issued the initial gag order on April 2, about four weeks after Springfield police arrested Strebendt, a former professional mixed-martial arts fighter who shot and killed an unarmed man after a minor traffic crash.
IBM assured that f the US government were to serve a national security order on IBM to obtain data from an enterprise client and impose a gag order that prohibits IBM from notifying that client, IBM will take appropriate steps to challenge the gag order through judicial action or other means.
Sheen, 48, is said to have been warned he'd be jailed if he broke the gag order again - after he tweeted Mueller a picture of a cake with a grenade on top.