Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, October 1, 2018


Page 8



Judge Lifts Invalid Order That Should Not Have Been Made


An editorial in the Friday issue of the MetNews decried Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gus Sztraicher’s issued Wednesday of an order forbidding news outlets to publish photographs or air videos taken in his courtroom with his permission.

We are delighted to note that on Thursday, he lifted that order. A report on his action, in the case of murder defendant Ramon Escobar, was not dispatched by the Associated Press until Thursday, after the Friday issue had been printed.

While it is to his credit that Sztraicher realized his folly and rescinded the order, it remains that he made it. For any judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court to display such ignorance of the dictates of the First Amendment, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court, is deplorable.

Sztraicher should not have contemplated a prior restraint, let alone effectuating it.

It is troubling also that the Office of Los Angeles County Public Defender would argue the constitutional permissibility of a prior restraint simply on the basis of the defendant not wanting to have his picture taken and claiming prejudice.

In 2010, it contended in the Court of Appeal that murder defendant Albred Tersargyan had just such a right. It defended an order issued by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt ordering the Los Angeles Times not to publish photographs she had said could be snapped.

“We conclude the superior court’s order amounts to an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech,” Acting Justice Sanjay Kumar wrote, in an opinion for this district’s Div. Five.

No cases have come out since then contradicting the precedents he cited.

Once again, the Office of Public Defender has argued against the faithful application of rock-solid constitutional precepts. Surely the duty to its client does not extend to exhorting the court to issue or maintain an unlawful order.

The Office of Public Defender, in our view, acted unethically. And Sztraicher, on Wednesday, acted irresponsibly.


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