A judge in the US has started what could become a free speech storm by banning people from leafleting jurors in and around the courthouse. A group, calling itself the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), that campaigns for the rights of jurors to be properly informed and not feel pressured – has itself been pressured with a court order banning it from leafleting around courthouses in Orange and Osceola in Florida.
The leaflets did not apparently contain any information or material relating to a specific case being heard, rather they were designed to be a guide on free speech and the integrity of the justice system.
But Chief Judge Belvin Perry took exception to the activities of FIJA and their leaflets and issued an order based to restrict such “expressive conduct and the dissemination of leaflets and other materials containing written information tending to influence summoned jurors as they enter the courthouse is necessary to serve the state's compelling interest in protecting the integrity of the jury system”.
The irony is that his order is being seen as curbing the free expression of those campaigning for the integrity of the jury system. So you have a judge gagging those who encourage jurors to be well informed – and well informed in this context and the context of the leaflets is not seeking to influence cases but making jurors aware of their rights and duties as jurors not to be influenced or feel intimidated.
So Judge Perry having now sought to unduly influence and intimidate FIJA could be faced with a backlash for seeking to prior restrain their First Amendment Right to free speech.
Meanwhile FIJA has reprinted its leaflets and is hitting back at the judge’s out of order Order.
The Chief Judge doesn’t suffer fools it would seem