What is a protective or “gag” order?
Protective orders – sometimes called “gag” orders or non-dissemination orders – are issued by judges in pending legal cases. Generally, they prohibit certain parties in a case, such as lawyers, defendants and witnesses, from publicly discussing the case or each other publicly. Protective orders can be broad, covering all parties on a wide range of topics related to a case, or they can be narrow, prohibiting certain parties from commenting on specific issues.
The First Amendment protects the right to freedom of speech, but that freedom has certain boundaries. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution protects our right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury. Sometimes those rights need to be balanced against each other. The US Supreme Court has upheld specific limits on speech when a judge finds it necessary to protect a jury from bias or to protect witnesses or other participants in a case from threats and intimidation.