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by B.owl Saturday, Apr. 07, 2001 at 2:06 PM

censorship begets censorship


Cypherpunk Judge Warns Media

by Declan McCullagh (declan@wired.com)

8:00 a.m. Apr. 6, 2001 PDT

TACOMA, Washington -- A federal judge has threatened media outlets

with contempt charges if they quote from public documents on a court

website, prompting outcries from journalist groups.

U.S. District Judge Jack Tanner warned Thursday that anyone who

published the name of a juror in the criminal trial of U.S. v. James

Dalton Bell would go to jail. The list of jurors is available on the

Pacer website provided by the federal court system.

"No one in the print media, electronic media, no member of the

prosecution, no witness for the prosecution, nor the defense lawyers,

are to print, under any circumstances, the names of these jurors...

under penalty of contempt," Tanner said.

Gregg Leslie, the legal defense director for the Virginia-based

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said: "The sweeping

nature of such an order is not just unconstitutional, but truly

outrageous. Its absurdity is compounded by the fact that it presumes

toreach parties not subject to the court's jurisdiction."

"Unfortunately, many judges seem to think that the old,

well-established standards barring prior restraints on publication of

truthful, lawfully obtained information don't apply to electronic

records or other court information," Leslie said. "They do."

Tanner is an unpredictable 82-year old jurist known to use his

contempt powers broadly.

In a prior trial involving Bell's defense lawyer, Robert Leen, Tanner

briefly held Leen in contempt after his client's son acted up in


Tanner also sealed the entire case file, including traditionally

public documents such as the charges against the defendant, until the

jury reaches a verdict. The trial is expected to conclude Friday or




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