Judge Faye Peterson (Photo Credit: AP/Rogelio V. Solis)
Judge Faye Peterson issued a gag order in the Mississippi Department of Human Services civil lawsuit late this afternoon. The order was entered sua sponte, which means the Court made the decision without any party requesting the gag order.
Peterson’s Order stated:
Having noted the parties proclivities to speaking to the media before and/or without presenting matters to the Court, this Court, in an effort to ensure that the parties herein receive a fair and impartial trial in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, hereby enters a Suppression Order limiting pre-trail publicity until the completion of the trial or disposition without trial.
Peterson’s move comes the day after former Gov. Phil Bryant released text messages related to the TANF welfare scandal. Bryant is not a party to the civil litigation, nor has he been charged with any wrongdoing. It is not clear if Bryant’s release, the reaction to it, or some other factor prompted Peterson to act.
Jim Waide, an attorney for one of the named defendants in the civil litigation who has pushed for Bryant to be added as a defendant, was quoted in a Mississippi Today article this morning questioning the completeness of the texts Bryant produced. Waide has been a frequently quoted source in Anna Wolfe’s reporting, both in this case and in the previous criminal case of former Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.
Peterson’s gag order concludes:
It is therefore, ordered that all attorneys, their representatives, parties, witnesses, applicable agency personnel, law enforcement officers and court personnel are prohibited from discussing or commenting on any aspect of this case with the media until such time as it has concluded. The parties’ attorneys, however, are allowed to advise the media of motions, motion hearings, and/or trial settings in this action.