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Court Gags Blogging Lawyer, Maybe

Miami criminal defense lawyer David O. Markus will have to watch what he says on his Southern District of Florida blog now that a federal judge has issued a gag order that appears to extend to him. The gag order came in the case of the so-called Liberty City 7, a group accused of plotting terrorist acts in Miami, Chicago and elsewhere. In December, the first trial of the seven ended in a mistrial as to six of the defendants after jurors deadlocked on the charges against them. Jurors acquitted a seventh defendant, Lyglenson Lemorin.

In the wake of the mistrial, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard issued a sweeping gag order prohibiting the defendants, their lawyers, prosecutors and others from speaking to the news media. With the retrial of the six remaining defendants due to start with jury selection this week, Lenard issued an order Thursday extending the gag to cover acquitted defendant Lemorin, Lemorin's lawyer Joel DeFabio and DeFabio's "agents."

Here is where blogger Markus enters the picture. Markus recently took on defense lawyer DeFabio as a client to challenge Lenard's gag order. "Because I am now one of DeFabio's agents," Markus writes on his blog, "I take it that I cannot speak about the case." He has filed a motion to clarify the scope of the order. But until that is ruled on, he says, "I don't think I will be posting about the case."

The judge's rationale for gagging Lemorin and his lawyers is that the acquitted defendant remains a witness in the case. Reporting on the order, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel checked in with First Amendment guru Floyd Abrams, who called the gag order unusual for its impact on people not involved in the case. "Judges have considerable, but not unlimited, power to limit the speech of those before them," Abrams said.

[Hat tip to How Appealing.]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 14, 2008 at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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