Zansberg: Tread lightly on ‘prior restraint’ of press

The Denver Gazette: A couple of weeks ago, a judge ordered The Gazette not to publish information it had lawfully received from a public court file. Reporter Julia Cardi had asked a court clerk to provide her all publicly available records on file in five related cases arising from the alleged homicide of Elijah McClain. None of the documents she received were stamped “sealed” or “suppressed.” But some of them should have been so labeled and withheld from the public file.

As a professional courtesy, Cardi notified the attorneys in the case that her article summarizing those filings was to be published the next day. That afternoon, the state Attorney General’s Office prevailed upon Judge Priscilla Loew to issue a “prior restraint” commanding The Gazette, upon pain of contempt sanctions, not to publish the information. In the days that followed, both The Gazette’s attorney (me) and the Colorado attorney general filed a series of pleadings marked “urgent,” “immediate,” and “forthwith.”

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