Does gag order violate teen's rights?

Posted at 7:50 PM, Apr 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-27 20:14:51-04

The Bloomfield Hills mom who spoke out on 7 Action News early this year, saying her daughter was “medically kidnapped” by the state, is now under a gag order.

New filings in court this week by attorneys continue the battle over what is going to happen to her daughter, 17-year-old Leiani McMichael.

Taking a look back at the case, it started last year as CPS investigated why Leiani McMichael was sick.

According to court filings, it was believed her mom, Rebecca Campos of Bloomfield Hills, and her dad, James McMichael of California, both exhibited Munchausen By Proxy.  It is a disorder where a parent makes a child sick for attention.  

Child Protective Services took Leiani from her home and forced her to live at Children’s Village.

Rebecca Campos presented medical records to 7 Action News that showed some doctors believed she had legitimate physical illnesses. Others believed it could be psychosomatic.

“I just keep asking, how do I fix it?,” said Rebecca at the time.

In January, Child Protective Services dropped the allegations against Leiani’s parents, but the court remained involved in a guardianship hearing.  Leiani was sent to live at home with her step-father, under the condition her mom live elsewhere.

The family was told reunification would begin under psychological supervision. It hasn’t happened to any significant degree.

Four months later, Leiani's mom is only allowed 5-hours of parenting time a week and one overnight visit. Her mom lives in her car the rest of the time, unless Leiani can stay at a friend’s house.

“We got punished because she got sick,” said Rebecca Campos.

Leiani asked 7 Action News to tell her story in March, as she became frustrated with the slow process.

She was composed, well-spoken, and clear. She said her mom never hurt her. She said the court is making her life difficult for no reason. She said she will be 18 in the fall, is a straight-A student, and her opinion should be listened to.

Last week there was a hearing to address the reunification plan.  Before that hearing the family voiced concerns, there was talk from the guardian ad litem, an attorney appointed by the court to represent Leiani’s interests, that there should be a gag order.

Leiani voiced her disapproval of the suggestion.

“Our family has been put through enough. They tell me I don’t understand what is happening. I do understand. They don’t know what happens in my family. They are making decisions based on false pretenses,” said Leiani.

Now 7  Action News has obtained a copy of the signed order. It says,”None of the parties shall knowingly communicate any information regarding this case to the Media and/or Social Media for 42 days.”

Now the question is, did that violate Leiani’s rights?

“It is a concern,” said Corey Silverstein, a First Amendment Attorney in Bingham Farms.  "She should have to have the ability to have her first amendment rights considered. That is key. Were her first amendment rights considered?”

7 Action News went to the Oakland County Courthouse to look into it.  There was no reference to any such debate in her file. The judge had no comment. The transcripts of the case were not immediately available.  Sources who were in court that day say it was not a subject of much discussion.

Most of the time gag orders are issued to ensure a jury isn’t tainted. There is no jury on this case. 

A gag order could be issued to protect Leiani. It is possible the guardian ad litem believes he is doing that.

In one court filing he writes, "In review of the psychological reports and the total history of this case there appears to be a psychological component of this case where attention seeking behavior may be the cause of the underlying issues here."

He asked the judge to close proceedings, so the media couldn't follow them. The judge has not yet ruled on that.

From what Leiani and her family said before the gag order was issued, they feel speaking out on 7 Action News is a way to make sure Leiani's voice is heard. So often in court, the 17-year-old doesn't even get a chance to say a word.