Judge lifts order barring media from publishing on former student suing UNC system
On March 1, 2023, an Asheville judge lifted his order barring members of the press from publishing about a former student who is suing the University of North Carolina System and multiple university administrators, according to court records.
Chief United States District Judge Martin Reidinger granted on Feb. 22 the plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order requesting that no information be released by the defendants or published by the media. Immediately after the restraint went into effect, the parties jointly filed to withdraw the motion, asking the judge to dissolve the TRO and cancel a preliminary hearing.
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh and Freedom of the Press Foundation, which operates the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, jointly filed a motion to intervene in the case on Feb. 28.
They requested that the court allow them to file a motion to unseal the underlying motions and orders connected to the prior restraint. They also requested that, if the judge denied the parties’ motion to dissolve the restraining order, they be allowed to file their own motion asking the same.
“Journalists, including at the Tracker, regularly rely on court records to gather and report news, but are unable to do so when records are hidden from the public or when courts purport to restrain them from publishing,” FPF Director of Advocacy Seth Stern wrote in support of the motion.
An Asheville judge issued an order barring members of the press from publishing about a former student who is suing the University of North Carolina System and multiple university administrators on Feb. 22, 2023, according to court records.
The plaintiff, who filed the suit on Feb. 15 under the pseudonym Jacob Doe, alleges that he was wrongfully expelled from UNC Chapel Hill after being accused of sexual assault by four undergraduate women.
When filing the suit, Doe simultaneously filed the motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, requesting that no information be released by the defendants or published by the media. Those filings appear to have been sealed and are not available for public review.
Chief United States District Judge Martin Reidinger granted the temporary restraining order on Feb. 22, citing possible irreparable harm to the plaintiff. The order bars the defendants from disclosing any information about the disciplinary proceedings at the heart of the lawsuit and requires them to inform media outlets about the restraint.
The order also requires the defendants to instruct news outlets that “they are prohibited from publishing any information concerning the Plaintiff, the disciplinary proceedings, or the outcomes of such proceedings.” It is unclear which media outlets, if any, were informed of the order.
Immediately after the restraint went into effect, the parties jointly filed to withdraw the motion, asking the judge to dissolve the TRO and cancel a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 7.
As of publication the restraining order remains in effect.