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Juvenile Court Files May Be Sealed, But Juvenile Case Can Still Be Talked About

Added 04-06-20 08:21:02am EST - “and the media can still ask school officials about them?""if the statute is broadly applied in an attempt to bar the Media Defendants' right to question sources, then the statutory language assuredly violates the First Amendment."” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “Juvenile Court Files May Be Sealed, But Juvenile Case Can Still Be Talked About”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

From Doe v. Community Newspaper Holding, Inc., 2020 WL 1566986, a Mississippi trial court case decided last month by Judge Charles W. Wright:

According to the Complaint, "on or about April 13, 2017," Plaintiff John Doe "was arrested at his home in Collinsville, Lauderdale County, Mississippi on a charge of sexual battery alleged to have occurred in March 2017" and was [one] of five students arrested in connection with the events at issue. The Complaint also avers that "the sexual battery charge alleged against John Doe was dropped on April 20, 2017." Plaintiffs thus concede both that John Doe was arrested and that the charges were dropped a week later.

Both the Meridian Star and WTOK reported on these arrests, as well as statements School Superintendent Randy Hodges and Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun about the events at issue…. Plaintiffs complain about a WTOK broadcast aired on April 13, 2017, reporting that five West Lauderdale High School students had been "arrested … on charges of sexual battery" and that a "source confirms that at least one of the suspects was on the West Lauderdale Baseball team." The broadcast reports that five students had been arrested … [and] "… All are charged as juveniles with sexual battery." …

Plaintiffs [also] complain about an online article that WTOK published a week later, on April 20, 2017, under the headline "Sexual battery charge dropped against WLHS baseball player." According to Plaintiff's Complaint,

"The article reported, 'Superintendent Randy Flodges says a high school baseball player, who was one of the five students charged with the sexual battery of a classmate has now had the charge dismissed. He says he can't comment any further on the case since all of the accused are minors. Newscenter 11 has not heard any official word on whether charges against any of the other four students have been dropped. Hodges says a decision on disciplinary action for those students who have been charged will be made on a case by case basis once he has all the facts.'"

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