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WXYZ wins first amendment court battle in probate investigation

Posted at 2:55 PM, Dec 07, 2017
and last updated 2018-02-01 21:11:49-05

The Michigan Court of Appeals made a key ruling today, protecting free speech rights.

The judges reversed an injunction and restraining order that had been put in place by Oakland County Judge Daniel A. O’Brien against WXYZ-TV and 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

Judge O’Brien tried to stop us from showing you pictures of Milan and Janet Kapp – an elderly West Bloomfield couple who had been placed under guardianship.

As part of our year-long investigation into the local probate courts, one of the Kapp’s daughters had asked us to investigate allegations of neglect and misspending of the Kapp’s money.

But just hours before our investigation was set to air, the judge issued the restraining order.

WXYZ challenged that order in court, because it was unconstitutional.

“A court cannot order someone not to publish something,” said Jim Stewart, an attorney for WXYZ-TV. “It’s called a prior restraint of speech and it’s been held to be presumptively unconstitutional.”

The only time prior restraint against a news outlet has been upheld has been in matters of national security.

We do have a sad update to this story, Mrs. Kapp passed away last week.