Precinct 333

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Free Press And Open Courts -- What A Concept!

The ACLU, a great supporter of keeping the press free, public records public, and courts open, has been dealt a blow in a Nebraska case -- in which it attempted to have a judge gag media outlets that wanted to report the name of an individual suing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a public building. The organization had worried that allowing the name of its client to be reported would lead to harassment and because of an earlier death threat.
ACLU attorney Amy Miller told Kopf that revealing the name in print would put the man's life in jeopardy.

"Lives are at stake," she said. "You might as well paint a target on the man's back."

Funny, I'm not aware of any actual attacks on anyone who has sued to have a cross or Ten Commandments monument removed from a public place. The old "Thou Shalt Not Kill" thing sort of prevents that kind of thing.

And besides, the newspaper is operating on principle here.
World-Herald attorney Michael Cox said sealed evidence presented to the court shows that "the cat is out of the bag."

"Everybody knows who it is," Cox said.

Cox said the paper had the right to publish his name and doing so would not put him at risk.

"He is not going to die because of what the World-Herald does," Cox said.

Following the hearing, Cox said he did not know when or if a story would run revealing the man's name. He said a larger investigative piece related to the case was being pursued.

Larry King, executive editor of the World-Herald, said the man thrust himself into the public eye by bringing the lawsuit.

"This is not a case in which an individual, through no fault or action of his own, found himself in the middle of a dispute," King said. "This man is trying to force a city to make a controversial change it doesn't want to make. If you want to change public policy, it should not be a surprise that you could be publicly identified."

Sounds reasonable to me. If you want to raise a claim in court, you should have to identify yourself. He filed the suit because "he has to see the monument from a street passing by the park on his way to work every day and when he attends events in the park." Why shouldn't the public, which overwhelmingly supports the monument, be allowed to know who is suing the government to remove a monument that the public overwhelmingly supports? Isn't that a part of open government and open courts?


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