The Palm Beach Post is fighting a Florida judge’s order that it remove from its news site transcripts of recorded calls of a jailhouse snitch to protect the inmate’s “right to privacy.” (PDF) Last week’s decision from Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox also prohibited the news outlet, or “any other person currently in possession of the recorded calls,” from publishing transcripts of the informant’s taped jailhouse phone conversations.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has never upheld a prior restraint on pure speech, nor has (the newspaper’s) counsel found a Florida appellate decision upholding such a restraint,” the Post wrote (PDF) a Florida state appeals court. The Post said that Cox was erroneously putting the rights of jailhouse informant Frederick Cobia above those of the newspaper and that inmates have no expectation of privacy when speaking on jailhouse phones. Jail signs caution inmates that their calls are being recorded, the newspaper’s appeal said.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal declined to immediately block Cox’s order but on Friday expedited (PDF) briefing on the matter.
The Post said it has complied with the ruling:
The Post excised parts of the conversations from the story that continues to live on the Internet. The story about the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office repeatedly calling Cobia to testify against fellow inmates and about allegations that Cobia is receiving special treatment in return for his cooperation was first published on the paper’s website, myPalmBeachPost.com, on Oct. 15 and appeared in the print edition on Oct. 18.
The original online story’s headline read: “Palm Beach County jailhouse lawyer doubles as jailhouse snitch.”
An editor’s note at the top of the story says:
“Under the Nov. 30, 2015, order of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox, The Palm Beach Post has removed transcripts of portions of recordings of phone calls made by Frederick Cobia while being held in the Palm Beach County Jail. Also removed from a previous version of this story are two paragraphs that included quotations from the transcripts. The Post is appealing Cox’s ruling.”
The Post reported that “the transcripts also have been in court records in the case of accused murderer Jamal Smith since mid-October. Cox ordered the clerk of courts to seal those documents from public view.”