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The Inter-Mountain follows judges order

September 29, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong issued a court order during Friday's hearing for a student vaccination complaint. In it, the judge ordered that the juvenile and her father, who filed the court complaint, be referred to in media accounts of the hearing only by their initials, in order to protect the juvenile's anonymity.

The Inter-Mountain previously published several stories in which the two plaintiffs' names appeared. The first article covered the father's public address to the Randolph County Board of Education on Sept. 4, during which he spoke about his daughter's situation. In that address, he used her name.

The daughter then was interviewed by The Inter-Mountain for a Sept. 10 article, one day before the complaint was filed in Randolph County Circuit Court.

Because the names of the father and daughter involved already are public knowledge, The Inter-Mountain included their names in an article about the complaint filing. In the court filing, they are referred to only by their initials.

The Associated Press then wrote an article about the complaint, in which both names were used. The AP article ran this week in newspapers across the country.

On Friday afternoon, The Inter-Mountain again spoke to Wilfong about the court order, questioning whether it should apply when the two names already are publicly known. Wilfong said it is her court's policy to always protect the identity of juveniles involved in court cases. She further compelled The Inter-Mountain to comply with the order for today's article about the hearing, and those going forward.

In an email Friday with Phil Reale, legal counsel for the West Virginia Press Association, he advised The Inter-Mountain that "an instruction of the court on the record is something that should be adhered to and followed, lest one run the risk of being held in contempt." Because of the court order and on advise of legal counsel, The Inter-Mountain is deviating from its normal practice of identifying the plaintiffs.



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