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Judge muzzles OC Register lawsuit coverage with gag order

September 25, 2008 |  9:41 am

No_first_amendment_for_you So, Your Honor, what’s up with the 1st Amendment?

Orange County Superior Court Judge David Velasquez apparently thinks it doesn’t apply to newspapers –- not when the paper in question, the Orange County Register, wants to cover a civil trial involving its parent company.

Velasquez slapped the gag order on the Register last week in Gonzalez vs. Freedom Communications, a class-action lawsuit brought against the company by current and former newspaper carriers. In effect, the order prohibits the newspaper from publishing the proceedings of an open trial.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press denounced the gag order Wednesday, with executive director Lucy Dalglish calling it an "unprecedented and utterly baseless" encroachment on 1st Amendment rights.

Jury selection in the trial is expected to begin Monday, and Alonzo Wickers IV, an attorney representing the Register, said he is contesting the gag order at the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana.

-- Christopher Goffard

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times