Mark McGaha wanted to share his frustrations about the Department of Child Services with the public, but he never got the chance.
McGaha did an interview with an Indianapolis TV station, but a Fountain County judge issued a restraining order barring the station from airing his complaints or even showing his face -- apparently without even having seen the footage . . .
A legal scholar called Judge Susan Orr Henderson's action unconstitutional and said it "borders on judicial misconduct."
"Quite simply, a judge does not have the authority to stop the press from publishing or airing a story," said Henry Karlson, a professor at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. "Any person has a right to contact the press and say a public agency is not treating them right."
Karlson said the judge's action amounted to "prior restraint," or government censorship, which is a violation of the First Amendment . . .
Maliska said the court order was sought by the guardian ad litem who represents McGaha's children in a Child in Need of Services case in Fountain County.
The guardian ad litem, Covington attorney Sue White, did not return calls from The Indianapolis Star, and the court would not release a copy of the order. Bailiff Dianne Cotten said it was part of the confidential records of the CHINS case and could not be made public.
However, a copy obtained by The Star showed that Henderson barred WXIN "from broadcasting any portion of an interview involving Mark McGaha and his minor children until such time as the guardian ad litem and/or court has an opportunity to review" the report.
The order said the injunction was issued to protect the best interests of the children. Karlson said that does not provide the constitutional standard for such an order.
"I see no basis on which a prior restraint could have been imposed," he said. "He has an absolute right to complain about his treatment by the court or any other government agency."
Judge James Payne, who's in charge of DCS, says don't blame him, blame the judge. "He said DCS has no control over the judge's actions and that parents who have a beef with the agency or court have a number of avenues to have their concerns addressed," Payne told Evans. Doesn't your agency employ the person who petitioned for the restraining order?