Rhode Island Judge Michael Forte has a curious concept of free speech and a dangerous view of judicial authority. Forte recently issued an order banning the sister of a father in a custody battle from commenting on the case on Facebook. Michelle Bouthillier Langlois, 41, has been defending her brother Michael from domestic-abuse allegations.
Langlois has been trying to raise money for a lie detector to show that her brother is innocent and has been criticizing Forte for delaying his access to his kids. She has been sharing her (often caustic) views on Facebook, including such entries as “Court postponed to May 27. Another month Michael not allowed to see nor speak with his children. More time for children to forget their biological dad and bond with step-father. So much for the Judicial System! Michael has seen his children about five times and spoke to them maybe 10 since November 25th!!!!!!”
Tracey Martin, 37, Bouthillier’s ex-wife, has objected that Langlois is making her look bad and causing animus toward her family on the Internet. She insists that these actions are a danger to her and her children. She filed an affidavit with Forte, who surprisingly issued an order restricting the speech of a non-party about his rulings and the case.
This appears to be something of judicial conceit in Rhode Island. In 2007, a family court ordered Rev. Anne Grant of Providence to stop publishing a blog that criticized a state agency and others involved in a divorce and custody case. The high court refused to hear the case. For an earlier blog on that case, click here.
However, it is not just Rhode Island. Recently, an appellate court had to reverse the decisions of two lower court judges punished a minister for publicly releasing “demons” on the judge who sentenced him, here.
Without addressing the merits of the alleged domestic abuse, this order was clearly an act of judicial abuse. It is hard to imagine how Forte believed that he had authority to police the public statements of third parties on the Internet. However, it shows a shocking lack of restraint and judgment.
For the full story, click here.