A three-judge California appeals court panel has ruled unanimously that the order by a trial judge barring the Orange Country Register from publishing stories about testimony in a lawsuit against the newspaper is clearly prior restraint and a violation of the First Amendment. Numerous free press groups had joined the Register and its parent company, Freedom Communications, in seeking to have the gag order overturned.
“The appeals court order is a victory for the people. The ability to report what happens in open court is fundamental to a free society,” said Register Editor Ken Brusic in his paper’s story on the decision.
The Register did not win on all counts. The appeals court denied its petition to halt the trial and upheld a $23,793 fine for intentionally destroying evidence. The lawsuit involves claims for damages by over 6,000 current and former newspaper delivery workers.