Noting that there has been a willingness to attempt to try the R. Allen Stanford / Ponzi-scheme case in the press, Judge David Hittner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a sua sponte gag order [pdf] in the case on Friday.
Here’s the operative section:
[T]he Court hereby
ORDERS that from this date until the final disposition in this case: [the attorneys, the parties, all witnesses, and alleged victims,] their representatives, and their agents, including publicity agents, shall not give, authorize, or permit any extrajudicial statement to any person associated with any public communications media relating to the trial, the parties, the witnesses, or the issues in this case, which [may interfere with a fair trial and which is not public record].
Now, you tell me: Does that stop the victims, parties, and attorneys from blogging about the case?
The phrasing of the order is definitely from the era of old media. It’s written as if the people subject to the gag order are not themselves associated with “public communications media”. These days, aren’t we all?
On the face of it, it doesn’t look like the order bans blogging. But I can’t believe that Judge Hittner meant to bar parties and witnesses from trying the case on CNBC but meant to allow them to try the case in the blogosphere.
As a point of comparison, we are now seeing jury instructions that explicitly ban blogging by jurors about their cases. So why wasn’t this order phrased with the web in mind? This sure looks like another example of the judiciary failing to keep pace with changing times.