DOCUMENT: Read city's complaint to stop YES! Weekly distribution

YES! Weekly just received the complaint the city filed Jan. 29 to try and prevent us from publishing information the city gave us in several public-records requests. You can read it in its entirety here. Not only did they want to stop us from distributing it, but they wanted us to pay their attorney fees for filing the temporary restraining order against us.

The most glaring error in the complaint: Wombo3 LLC, the entity named in the complaint, is not connected to YES! Weekly. Publisher Charles Womack confirmed that Wombo3 LLC is a separate business venture (in a different industry altogether) and that the paper is run under Womack Newspapers Inc.

Some smaller errors: The complaint states that the information was provided to the paper on Dec. 7, when the requests were actually turned over periodically from October 2012 through Jan, 23, 2013. The "HIVE" request has still not been provided to us, and the "Downtown Greensboro" search was for a separate article. One request should read "mkay5507@gmail.com" and not "mk5507@gmail" — an e-mail address of Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter.

The judge denied the city's request but we don't have a copy of his denial yet. The city was most likely shot down because the issue of prior restraint has been thoroughly adjudicated after a 1971 Supreme Court ruling in the case New York Times vs. the United States, commonly known as the "Pentagon Papers" case. Read more about this issue in the Feb. 6 issue of YES! Weekly.

We also now have copies of their explanation for why the hearing was ex parte — meaning without anyone present representing the paper and without notifying us of the hearing — which boiled down to a lack of time (they filed the request Tuesday night and we distribute on Wednesday mornings) and because they asserted we would act to publish the information immediately if we knew they were trying to stop us from doing so.

3 comments:

Roch Smith, Jr said...

I expect to see publisher Charles Womack at tonight's city council meeting to speak from the floor on this matter.

Lex Alexander said...

As it happens, my media law class was examining prior restraint last week just as this was all going down. The precedent against prior restraint actually is much older than the Pentagon Papers case: It's Near v. Minnesota, decided in 1931. (Importantly, that ruling invoked not only the First Amendment, but also the 14th, therefore making the First Amendment binding not only on the federal government but also on states and their political subdivisions, such as incorporated cities.)

The majority opinion conceded only three instances in which prior restraint could be considered constitutional: The material to be published:

-- would threaten national security in time of war.

-- would be obscene, or

-- would threaten to incite violence and/or the use of force to overthrow the government.

The Pentagon Papers case actually didn't add all that much, and what it did add restricted even more (albeit slightly) the circumstances under which prior restraint is constitutional.

Two justices in the majority, Stewart and White, said an injunction might be constitutional if publication “would surely result in direct, immediate and irreparable damage” to the nation. Stewart even added that he thought publication of the Pentagon papers likely would result in *some* harm, but that the government had not met its burden of proving that publication "would surely result in direct, immediate and irreparable damage."

Part of a good attorney's job is telling his client when he has no case. Absent evidence to the contrary, we must conclude that the city attorney either didn't try to do his job or utterly failed.

Billy Jones said...

Eric, Can you explain to us what and/or who prompted you to have the search include Marikay's e-mail address?