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Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart

    Citation. 427 U.S. 539, 96 S. Ct. 2791, 49 L. Ed. 2d 683, 1976 U.S.

    Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Stuart (Respondent), ordered a pretrial gag order on all press coverage of a murder trial.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Gag orders are constitutional only when there is clear and present danger that pretrial publicity would threaten a fair trial, alternative measures are inadequate and an injunction would protect the accused.


    Facts. The Respondent is a State District Court Judge who ordered the press to not report any of the accounts of confessions or facts that were “strongly implicative” in a murder trial.

    Issue. Is this gag order violative of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press?

    Held. Yes. The government has failed to meet the burden of showing that the trial will definitely be compromised by the public dissemination of pretrial proceedings.

    Discussion. There must be a balance between the rights of the press to inform the public and the individual’s right to a fair trial. Pretrial coverage will influence the public perception of the evidence, but there are other procedural safeguards to protect a defendant’s rights.

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