CA Judge Denies Gag Order

Sep 11, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Judge Christopher Hite denied a gag order motion to the California attorney general’s office today in the preliminary criminal hearing as Sandra Merritt defends against 15 felony charges brought against her by Attorney General Xavier Becerra. This was the fourth attempt by the AG’s office to silence the defendants.

Although the preliminary hearing is public, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Deputy Attorney General Johnette Jauron filed a last-minute motion to place a gag order on the proceedings “to protect the safety of the Doe witnesses.” The motion asked Judge Hite to “order the defendants to not reference the victims or any matter which may be taken to identify them or their livelihood in any matter.” The order had also asked that the court to “exercise its discretion to limit the statements the parties may make in public in regard to the witness testimony until after the conclusion of the preliminary hearing.”

Liberty Counsel is defending Merritt for her undercover journalism work which exposed Planned Parenthood’s trade in baby body parts. The gag order would have also muzzled Liberty Counsel’s attorneys Horatio Mihet and Nicolai Cocis from speaking the truth about the sale of baby body parts to the media and restricted reporting by pro-life journalists.

Judge Hite rightfully recognizes the danger in gaging the defendants and their attorneys and denied the AG’s motion.

Liberty Counsel Vice President of Legal Affairs and Chief Litigation Counsel Horatio Mihet said, “The attorney general’s continued assault on the First Amendment, both inside and outside the courtroom, continues to fail. We are thankful for the continued freedom to inform the public on this political prosecution and to expose it as a sham both inside and outside the courtroom.”

Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics. Liberty Counsel provides broadcast quality TV interviews via Hi-Def Skype and LTN at no cost.

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