Judge gets it wrong in censoring the Post-Dispatch

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Since May, an unconstitutional prior restraint has stopped the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from publishing a court record that the government accidentally made public.

"File:St. Louis Post-Dispatch (4820144198).jpg" (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85503658) by Paul Sableman is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse).

A St. Louis judge doubled down on an unconstitutional prior restraint last week, extending her previous order prohibiting the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from publishing a mental health evaluation of a man accused of killing one police officer and injuring another.

In an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) Deputy Advocacy Director Caitlin Vogus and First Amendment attorney Steve Zansberg explain the laundry list of errors in Judge Elizabeth Hogan’s latest order.

Vogus and Zansberg wrote:

“Prior restraints — laws or court orders barring the publication of information — are the most extreme, and least tolerable form of censorship. … Prior restraints on the press threaten our democracy by allowing the government to control the media landscape.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that they are almost always unconstitutional, striking down attempts to stop publication over and over again. Perhaps most famously, in the Pentagon Papers case, the court rejected attempts to prevent newspapers from printing a secret government history of the Vietnam War given to them by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. …

Hogan’s ruling, however, doesn’t bother to grapple with Supreme Court precedent, perhaps because that court has never upheld a prior restraint on the press.”

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