We've heard of judges issuing gag orders in especially sensitive cases, but until now, we've never heard of a judge issuing a blanket gag order: Harris County Family Court Judge Denise Pratt on January 23 sent a motion to attorneys in her court involved with SAPCR cases -- suits affecting parent-child relationships -- that takes a pretty hard line against the First Amendment. It's awesome.
Here's the text:
The Court, on its own motion, hereby makes the following order in all SAPCR cases:
All parties in the litigation, their attorneys and their agents of any sort, and any person acting under the authority under the party, their attorneys or agents are hereby ordered not to discuss or give interviews concerning this case or the particulars thereof with the media or with any person not associated with this case, whether print or electronic media including, but not limited to radio, television, print media, and including reporters.
It is further ordered that the parties, their attorneys and agents and anyone acting under their authority are not to release any information whatsoever about this case or the parties including the child in the form of press releases or discuss, disseminate or release information about this matter using any form of social media including but not limited to Twitter, Facebook, personal blogs, YouTube, Flickr, email or other social media.
We tried talking to Judge Pratt, to see if she could shed some light on this remarkable bit of jurisprudence, but she didn't return our calls -- perhaps because she didn't want to violate her own gag order.
According to her old campaign site, the Republican judge took the bench after 18 years practicing family law in Harris County. She's a foster parent, Sunday school teacher, and a sponsor of the La Porte Boys & Girls Homes. She really seems devoted to the welfare of kids, but this gag order business just throws us for a loop. Maybe one day she'll lift the order just long enough to explain it to us.
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