Monday, December 13, 2010


I was planning to post today about a procedural ruling in a major upcoming criminal case of significant public interest. But I can't. I can't tell you what case it is. I can't tell you what the ruling is about. And I certainly can't tell you what I think of it. That's because the entire ruling and any commentary on it is suppressed:

This judgement is not to be published (including any commentary, summary or description of it) in news media or on internet or other publicly accessible database or otherwise disseminated to the public until final disposition of trial or further order of the court. Publication in law report or law digest is permitted.
I think I am on safe ground however in telling you what I think of the suppression order itself: it stinks. I agree that there is a place for suppression orders, where they serve the interests of justice - for example, to avoid contaminating the jury pool with public discussion of inadmissible evidence, or to protect the identities of minors or vulnerable victims. This suppression decision does not fall into that category. No reason for it is given. But its most obvious purpose is to protect the judge and the trial from the public outrage and condemnation both would suffer were the substance of the ruling made public. And that makes it stink even more.

Courts are open, and judicial decisions published, so that everyone can see that they are fair. Secrecy, in and of itself, undermines public confidence in the judicial process. It requires a very strong justification. I do not believe such a justification exists in the case of this ruling. It should be published, so the media can report on the decision, the public see what is happening, and judge for ourselves whether it is "justice".