A five year old in Trenton, NJ brought hard drugs — heroin and crack cocaine — to his preschool on two occasions earlier this year.
The boy was removed from the custody of his father after bringing 30 packets of heroin to class, but then brought crack in while in the custody of his grandmother in October. He is now in foster care, in the government’s second attempt to safeguard this poor preschooler.
But when newspaper reporters from The Trentonian got their hands on the court complaint, which in family court matters is normally sealed, New Jersey’s state government sprang to action.
It seems the State Attorney General, appointed by no less than New Jersey Governor-turned-manservant Chris Christie, got a temporary injunction preventing the newspaper from publishing more articles on the story, and offered to agree not to oppose the newspaper’s argument against a permanent injunction.
On one condition: The Attorney General’s Office gets to approve the next article! And if they don’t like it, they said they would seek a permanent injunction.
Under Governor Christie’s administration, his appointed officials in the Attorney General’s Office have turned a law enforcement agency charged with the public’s protection into a quasi-counterintelligence operation spending more resources on fighting public records requests from citizens and the press, and perhaps even trying to intimidate anyone who defies their will.
A county court hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Wednesday. But this hearing should not even be necessary.
The disclosure of private information, particularly when involving children, should be made sparingly. Arguably, identifying details are wholly unnecessary to the news value. But those judgments are not the province of the State. The public — and the news media — have that right.
The First Amendment is clear on this and so is our Supreme Court. Freedom of the press is a core constitutional right.
There are over 40,000 lawyers living and working in New Jersey (many others live there but practice in New York or Pennsylvania). How come former Trump transition team (and talent scout) Christie couldn’t find — or didn’t want — a principled constitutional lawyer? Where is New Jersey’s Elliott Richardson? Where are the principled men and women in the Attorney General’s Office who would resign rather than violate the spirit, or letter, of our Bill of Rights?
And if President-Elect Trump still has any inclination to appoint this troubled Governor, with a penchant for abusing power, to anything, this Soviet-style attack on the free press must be the final nail in the coffin.