In a remarkable ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman has ordered firebrand attorney Geoffrey Fieger to pull TV commercials critical of the Bush Administration. Borman ruled that such ads threatened to influence the jury pool in Fieger’s upcoming trial for making illegal contributions to the John Edwards 2004 presidential campaign. It is an extremely rare ruling that pits judicial administration against the first amendment.
Fieger stands accused of making $127,000 worth of illegal contributions to John Edwards. Feiger has been in an open war with Michigan judges over the last few years. Click here
He has been running ads that compares the Bush Administration to Nazis and warns of an attack on the legal profession.
The commercials show the pictures of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former White House adviser Karl Rove. Other ads show Bush referring in a derogatory manner to “Dr. Kevorkian’s lawyer” — Fieger first attracted national attention as Kevorkian’s lawyer.
It is extremely problematic for the Justice Department to seek the suspension of such political speech through a court. Yet, both sides in the case has been barred from making public statements about the case. The order applies to all public statements including commercials. The problem is that Fieger is also a public figure — albeit a very controversial one. This order would effectively silence him from criticism of the Administration.
Borman does not appear to view this as a close question, at least with regard to some of the commercials: “This first one is just totally off the wall and outright blatant given that we have a jury trial coming up.”
One can certainly see the concern that Fieger is trying to circumvent the order. However, the issue that he raises has been expressed (perhaps more responsibly) by others. This may be an interesting one to watch.
For the full story, click here.
3 thoughts on “Federal Court Orders Geoffrey Fieger to Pull Anti-Bush Administration Ads from TV”
DW, I could only say, as an average citizen and non-lawyer, I certainly hope NOT! To me, such quashing of free speech, both in the Fieger case and in your hypothetical one, is dangerously close to our government officials putting in place new “sedition” laws.
Such laws are usually not made in the interests of “national security,” as the lawmakers would have us believe, but for the real purpose of stifling all forms of verbal dissent or disagreement. And create basically what the banana “republics” of China, Cuba, and other such governments have; the terror of tyranny, with justice for NONE. I know it would serve President Bush and the current administration very well to put such laws in place, but certainly not the rest of us. To me, it would be like an old novel, THE R DOCUMENT, by Irving Wallace coming frighteningly to life.
I don’t know how I missed this item a week ago! This is a very interesting one….
Hypothetical: John lives in Apple City, pop. 25. John is the minister of the town’s one church, and is facing an upcoming jury trial. John goes to Apple City’s saturday market where most of the adults are congregated and at his church’s booth, puts up a banner declaring his innocence.
The federal judge (I know, I know) tells him to take it down. John says, okay, but then uses a bullhorn to harangue the market-goers, and hands out angry flyers.
The judge says, stop it!
John then ascends the pulpit at the next Sunday sermon, and weaves a story of denunciation of his critics and declarations of his innocence, into biblical teachings and quotations. Most of the prospective jury pool are of course in his congregation.
Can the Judge say “stop it!” to that as well?
Do John’s first amendment rights in speech and religious exercise, trump judicial administration?
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