A Bergen County, New Jersey judge has ordered the local paper to “remove a news article” that relates to a child custody case, demanding that the paper take it out of public internet view for all eternity. The response to that order published in The Bergen Dispatch is pretty great.
On Thursday, Bergen County Superior Court Judge Jane Gallina-Mecca issued an order directing the Bergen Dispatch to remove a news article. The case, Docket Number FN 02-158-15, Division of Child Protection And Permanency (DYFS) vs. S.G., D.K. in the matter of G.K. involves the custody of a child. As such, the proceedings were held in a closed courtroom and no one from the Bergen Dispatch was notified nor was the Bergen Dispatch represented at the time.
It will be interesting to see how this holds up under appeal. Apart from being a threat to Constitutionally protected press freedom, it is major Streisand Effect territory. Again, from the Bergen Dispatch:
Many questions remain as to the extent of Judge Mecca’s power to censor the press in general and the Bergen Dispatch in particular. The Judges ability to issue such an order from behind closed doors without a hearing, without notification and without an opportunity to argue the facts seems contradictory to such things as the United States and the New Jersey Constitutions.
In June 2014, the Bergen Dispatch filed a First Amendment challenge to a gag order issued by Essex County Superior Court Judge Nancy Sivilli in a 2011 a divorce and custody suit, which is still pending. United States District Judge William J. Martini rejected Sivilli’s motion to dismiss the case finding that the gag order violates the Frist Amendment.
While the Bergen Dispatch reviews its options we have confirmed that Bergen County does currently remain part of the State of New Jersey and that currently New Jersey is still part of the Union of states that is governed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. As such, Bergen County citizens continue to enjoy the right to freedom of speech and the right to a free press.
UPDATE: Reminded of her obligation to uphold the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the judge backs down.