Attorney Stephen Jones threatens newspaper with legal action for reporting on sealed case
The Enid News & Eagle's attempt to unseal court records has drawn threats of legal action by Enid attorney Stephen Jones.
Jones is representing Eric Edwards, the Enid attorney whose charge for felony perjury the newspaper is trying to open for the public to see.
The newspaper filed two motions on Tuesday seeking to unseal the records closed by District Judge Ray Dean Linder in May.
In reporting on the motions Wednesday, the newspaper noted that a letter from Jones had been hand-delivered and faxed to the newsroom less than 45 minutes after he had declined to comment for the story.
In the letter, Jones said, "The publication of a newspaper story about matters that are under seal may result in contempt citations against the newspaper, the reporter personally, and their sources."
However, the newspaper is under no gag order from the judge that would prohibit it from reporting on the case having been sealed and its attempt to open the file.
Jones sent another letter following Wednesday's story. He accused the newspaper of engaging in a "journalistic assassination" of Edwards and of "bullying."
He also wrote:
We are evaluating, as counsel for one of the parties in interest, whether the newspaper, its anonymous source, and the reporters have violated the Court’s Order, and thus subject to contempt, punishment, and liable for violation of Mr. Edward’s civil rights. The sanction available against their likely source is unique to him.
How the newspaper could have violated the judge's order and Edwards' civil rights isn't clear.
For example, the charge against Edwards was originally posted to On Demand Court Records, a state court records database. The newspaper reported that its subsequent request to the Major County court clerk for an affidavit in the case was denied on the grounds the case records had been sealed.
The case was removed from ODCR that afternoon, but not before the newspaper grabbed a screen capture of the case.
Best known for serving as Timothy McVeigh's lead defense, Jones is the one guilty of bullying. Kudos to the Enid News & Eagle editors and reporters for not kowtowing to him.
Joey Senat, Ph.D.
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.