• First Amendment gets another challenge Friday, August 6, 2010

    This just strikes me as bizarre. And worrisome in its implications for the public’s ability to monitor court proceedings.

    Before the arraignment Wednesday of Alberd Tersargyan on charges related to some high-profile killings, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt granted permission to a Los Angeles Times photographer to take photographs of the proceedings. But after the arraignment had begun, and the photographer had taken several pictures, Merritt reversed her decision, rescinded the permission and barred photographer Al Seib from publishing the photographs he had already taken with the court’s permission — even though the defendant’s image in another setting had already aired on television and was available online.

    The Times appealed, arguing that the judge’s order constituted prior restraint on publication, which is barred under the Fist Amendment. But Merritt upheld her decision yesterday, saying she needed to balance competing interests, including the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

    The Times is appealing. But on the heels of the recent bizarre decision by the Washington, D.C., judge who barred The National Law Journal from naming a regulatory agency listed n court files, you have to wonder about the health of the First Amendment. If even the judges can’t get the calls right….

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