The conflict between the First Amendment and the Sixth Amendment is not new nor is it easily decipherable. Both amendments appear to have absolute priority, yet they appear to conflict (Erickson, 1977). The First Amendment declares unequivocally, "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press[,]" while the Sixth Amendment states with equal force, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed..." (U.S. Constitution, Amendment I, Amendment VI). Free speech and an unrestricted press can lead to a partial jury, but a jury unbiased by the media may mean restricted speech. In the judicial system the debate about how to balance these two competing constitutional rights has raged for decades, but one critical area—the nature and characteristics of requests for judicial "gag" orders—has been largely ignored. This thesis analyzed 103 cases from the Media Law Reporter volumes 19 through 33 (approximately 1991-2005) where gag orders were requested because of pretrial publicity. Those 103 cases were evaluated for the type of case, the reason for the case, when the gag order was requested, who requested the gag order, why they requested the gag order, who opposed the gag order, why they opposed the gag order, and why the gag order was granted or denied. It was found that although the issue of gag orders and their use in trials is not settled there is a general pattern to how they tend to be used. This study found that gag orders are most commonly used by judges in serious criminal trials, particularly at the federal level. Further, these cases usually involved juries, and the targets of the gag order were the parties involved in the trial, not the press.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



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law, legal, mlr, media law reporter, media, news, first amendment, sixth amendment, first, sixth, amendment, gag order, prior restraint, free speech, sheppard, prejudicial, biased, jury, judicial system, constitution, amendment I, amendment VI, constitutional, press, case, cases, publicity, judge, judicial, criminal, trial, jury, juries, lawyer



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Communication Commons