Libby judge threatens gag order on lawyers

The New York Times wasn't listening anyway.


Tim Grieve
April 14, 2006 6:10PM (UTC)

The federal judge presiding over the Scooter Libby case warned lawyers for both sides Thursday that he may issue an order preventing them from speaking with the media about the case.

"This court has previously cautioned the parties about making extrajudicial statements and warned that the court would not tolerate this case being tried in the media," U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton wrote in an order issued sua sponte Thursday. "Despite this Court's prior admonition, it appears that on several occasions information has been disseminated to the press by counsel, which has included not only public statements, but also the dissemination of material that had not been filed on the public docket."

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Walton's ire seems to be aimed, at least in this instance, at special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, whose letter retracting a claim about how Scooter Libby may have characterized the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate found its way into press reports before it made its way into the court's electronic filing system.

Maybe this will make Walton feel better: Although Fitzgerald's office alerted some media outlets on Tuesday about the retraction letter it would file with the court Wednesday -- prompting a flurry of news reports Wednesday morning -- the New York Times didn't get around to running a story on it until Thursday because, the Times says, "a telephone message and an e-mail message about the court filing went unnoticed at the newspaper."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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