THE BLOG

Palm Beach County Judge Denies Press Gag Order

07/14/2011 01:31 pm ET | Updated Sep 13, 2011

In the West Palm Beach Courthouse "a circuit judge Wednesday squashed an attempt by attorneys for Jeffrey Epstein to prevent parties in a civil lawsuit involving the billionaire sex offender from talking to the media. Circuit Judge David Crow denied the motion for a gag order," writes Michele Dargan in the Palm Beach Daily News.

While attending Wednesday's hearing -- Epstein vs. Edward -- I was forewarned by a colleague that I might be served in the courtroom and should immediately leave the hearing before Epstein's attorneys recognized me since trying to serve me in Florida on numerous occasions this year.

A strange predicament to be in, especially for somebody in the media given my family history, upcoming book on child sex trafficking and the ongoing litigation of Jeffrey Epstein's long publicized and internationally explosive child sex abuse case.

Minutes before I left the hearing Judge Crow had denied the gag motion ordered by Epstein's attorney after I requested a copy of the hearing's transcript from the Court Reporter; a lady who turned out to be exceptionally apologetic after the Judge made his decision.

Based on the Court Reporter's statements she was hired by Joseph Ackerman, one of Epstein's four lawyers, in order to transcribe the Epstein vs. Edward hearing and felt she needed permission to release the de facto document to any non-Epstein legal parties.

A decision I found unusual given a court reporter's standing which should be as a neutral and unbiased participant free of any prejudice. A crash course in court reporting quickly put us up to speed following Wednesday's incident confirming that during a civil proceeding at least in the State of Florida, either party can hire a court reporter while not so during a criminal hearing. During a criminal hearing the Court Reporter is hired by the State.

My colleague who was obviously concerned about my being served suggested I run down to the third floor to review the court documents. Heeding her sound advice I literally flew into the elevator and into the document room where civil cases are filed.

Staring at me from across a screen, file #50 2009 CA 040800XXXXMB AG screamed out, "Same Day Rush" order "Subpoena for a Deposition" issued by Jeffrey Epstein against Conchita Sarnoff.

In other words, Epstein had broken ground and for the first time during his litigation had attempted to serve a member of the press in the United States at her home as a result of the ongoing investigating into his sexual criminal case.

According to that document I was "Commanded to appear before a person authorized by law to take depositions at the law offices of Fowler White Burnett, PA" at 1395 Brickell Avenue, Miami, Florida on the 17th May, 2011, at 10;00 am.

Luckily he hasn't served me.

In retrospect, I find Epstein's attempt to subpoena me unusual, menacing and offensive. Mostly, because it is bizarre that a pedophile and convicted registered sex offender charged with "2 counts of solicitation of prostitution with a minor" who served 13 months in jail, did not serve any other of the countless members of the press also reporting his case since the sex scandal broke in early 2005.

Representing Epstein yesterday was attorney Joseph Ackerman who argued unsuccessfully for the gag order. Ackerman accused Scarola of repeatedly making statements to several news organizations about the registered sex offender's case.

"Mr. Scarola has constantly referred to Mr. Epstein as a pedophile and there's been no proof of that anywhere," Ackerman said. "Muzzling lawyers who may wish to make public statements has been long recognized as within the court's inherent power... We don't believe it's appropriate to wage a media campaign and taint the jury pool," quoted the Daily News.

Scarola argued instead that it would be unconstitutional to impose a gag order on the press. "There is a complete and total absence of proof that we have engaged in any conduct whatsoever that could be prohibited," Scarola said.

"If Mr. Epstein is embarrassed by Mr. Epstein's conduct, that's Mr. Epstein's problem," Scarola said. "I'm pleased to hear he's embarrassed by his conduct. Maybe it will serve as some deterrent in the future," quoted Dargan.