Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gag Order Reversed By Fourth District

In E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company v. Aquamar, S.A. (4D09-5166), the Fourth District reversed an order preventing the parties, their counsel or anyone associated with the parties or their counsel from talking to the press and specifically stated they could not "participate, encourage, assist, or abet in the dissemination of any out-of-court publicity in this matter.”  The Fourth District stated:
“In Florida, the limitations imposed by the court on communications between the media and lawyers and/or litigants must be for good cause to assure fair trials." Rodriguez ex rel. Posso-Rodriguez v. Feinstein, 734 So. 2d 1162, 1164 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999). Thus, a gag order should be supported by evidence and findings that any extrajudicial statements made by counsel or the parties pose a substantial or imminent threat to a fair trial. Id.; see also News-Press Publ’g Co. v. Hayes, 493 So. 2d 1, 2 (Fla. 2d DCA 1986) (quashing order restricting extrajudicial statements because it was entered sua sponte without a proper evidentiary hearing). As in Rodriguez, the order on review was not supported by any showing that it was necessary to preclude a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to the trial of the case. Furthermore, there was no evidence presented and there were no findings made that any out-of-court publicity posed a substantial and imminent threat to the fairness of the trial proceedings. Finally, the injunction was entered without proper notice, and is unrestricted in scope and time limit. See Rodriguez, 734 So. 2d at 1165. 


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