Many people have posted regarding the motion for temporary restraining order in the Complaint filed by Leisha Pickering against Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd. The question is asked, "can a judge forbid a party from showing documents to her attorney?" It is alleged in Mrs. Pickering's Complaint that the judge in her divorce case entered such an order.
Oddly enough, we have encountered this issue before. Our research turned up the case In re ECP, 918 So. 2d 809, 826-27 (Miss. App. 2005). That was an unusual case, because ECP was the child in a custody case, and the child had her own attorney. The Chancellor in that case, Sarah Springer, ordered the attorney not to show court documents to his client ECP and not to communicate with ECP about the case. (The case was doubly unusual for us, because Judge Springer had issued, in the case we were handling, a similar gag order, although the client was not a minor. Judge Springer was ultimately defeated for re-election by ECP's attorney, Larry Primeaux of Meridian.)
The Court of Appeals made clear that such an order violated ECP's right of access to the courts, guaranteed by Article III, Sect. 25, of the Mississippi Constitution. A party must be able to communicate the facts, and show relevant documents, to his or her attorney in order to have meaningful access to the courts. Because of this, although the Chancellor claimed the order was meant to protect the child's interests, the Appeals Court said it was invalid. (That ruling was not technically "reversed" because it had been rescinded by agreement while the appeal was pending.)
Because the Pickering v Pickering file is sealed, I don't claim to know whether the order complained of in the Pickering v Creekmore-Byrd Complaint is erroneous. But if the ECP order, meant to protect a child's innocence, is unconstitutional, it is clear that there would have to be a very strong justification for such an order to be valid.
Here is the ECP case for your review:
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