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03/22/89 In Re A Minor

March 22, 1989



State of Illinois, Appellee, v.

The Daily Journal of Kankakee, Appellant)

537 N.E.2d 292, 127 Ill. 2d 247, 130 Ill. Dec. 225 1989.IL.376

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Iroquois County, the Hon. Dwight W. McGrew, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CALVO took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.


The case poses the question of whether a newspaper which learns through ordinary reportorial techniques of the identity of a minor charged in a closed criminal proceeding may be forbidden from reporting that information once it has entered the public domain. We hold on the authority of Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co. (1979), 443 U.S. 97, 61 L. Ed. 2d 399, 99 S. Ct. 2667, that -- at least in the absence of a serious and imminent threat to the minor's welfare which cannot be obviated by some other, less speech-restrictive means -- such an order contravenes the Federal and Illinois Constitutions. The answer to the question, therefore, is no.

During the course of a juvenile proceeding in the circuit court of Iroquois County, the circuit court entered two orders: the first prohibiting appellant, The Daily Journal of Kankakee, from publishing the name of a minor, who had been charged in connection with a fatal shooting, and the second banning appellant from the courtroom during future hearings in the case unless it agreed to comply with the first order. During the course of challenging these orders in the circuit court, appellant notified the Attorney General of the State of Illinois, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 19 (107 Ill. 2d R. 19), of a challenge to the constitutionality of section 1-20(6) of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 701-20(6)). The Attorney General then entered his appearance in the case under Rule 19 for the limited purpose of defending the constitutionality of the Act. After the circuit court denied the appellant's motion to vacate the two orders, appellant appealed to the appellate court, pursuant to Rule 307(a)(1) (107 Ill. 2d R. 307(a)(1)). (Rule 307(a)(1) provides for interlocutory appeal of orders relating to injunctive relief.) With one Justice Dissenting, the appellate court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction (160 Ill. App. 3d 613), and we granted appellant's petition for leave to appeal (107 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)).

On the evening of January 19, 1987, Jo McCord, a reporter for appellant, attended a Watseka city council meeting. While there, she talked with the police chief of Watseka about a fatal shooting which had taken place two days before. A minor had been arrested in connection with the shooting. McCord asked the police chief to tell her about family disputes which the police had been called to quell at the home where the killing occurred, and in the course of answering McCord's questions, the police chief disclosed the minor's name. The minor's identity also appeared to McCord to be known to the city council members present that evening. In casual conversation, several council members discussed the minor's personality, and expressed surprise that he would be accused of violence.

The next day, January 20, 1987, the minor was taken before the trial court to be charged in connection with the shooting. Under the mistaken impression that the courtroom was closed to the press, McCord chose not to attend. During and immediately after the hearing, however, she spoke about the case with an Iroquois County juvenile probation officer, who told her what had happened at the hearing and about the minor's family life. In the course of the conversation the probation officer, like the police chief, freely used the minor's name.

On the following day, January 21, 1987, appellant published McCord's report of the hearing. The article included the minor's name. Appellant claims that its policy is to publish the names of minors who are charged with serious felonies, such as murder or attempted murder.

On January 28, 1987, McCord attended a second hearing in the juvenile proceedings. At the start of this hearing, the trial Judge ordered the reporters present not to disclose the minor's name in their reporting of the proceedings held that day. The next day, however, January 29, 1987, appellant published a second article, reporting on the hearing and again publishing the minor's name. It also stated that the minor would be placed in the custody of a juvenile probation officer and would continue to be housed at the Du Page County Youth Home in Wheaton.

On February 11, 1987, the trial court sua sponte entered an order which banned appellant from the juvenile proceedings unless it agreed to comply with the orders of the court. In support of its order, the trial court cited section 1-20(6) of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 37, par. 701-20(6)). At a hearing held to vacate the January 28 and February 11 orders, the trial Judge explained that he had entered the orders because of "certain threats . . . made toward the juvenile involved in this case" which had been "circulating in the community" and were "made known to the Court by more than just one individual, just by general knowledge and comment." The Judge also alluded to his concern about releasing the minor's whereabouts. The trial Judge "felt very strongly that this information could be known or be relayed to and be made known to any person or persons that might have any desire or willingness to commit harm against the minor." Because the minor was to be placed in foster care outside of the local community, "the fact that where the juvenile was going, if it was known to the people in that community or area that the juvenile was going to be in their midst, might unduly alarm the citizens of that area." Additionally, people in the local community who wished to harm the minor "would learn of his whereabouts" and would travel there "perhaps . . . and harm the minor." As to this last concern, the Judge stated that "[h]ow serious a threat that would be, I suppose you could say your guess is as good as mine." The Attorney General appeared at the hearing to argue that section 1-20(6) is constitutional. The trial court denied the appellant's motion to vacate.

On March 30, 1987, appellant filed a notice of appeal from the court's orders. On the same day, the circuit court held a further hearing. At that hearing, McCord agreed to comply with the prior orders, pending the appeal, and the court ordered all persons present not to use or publish the name of the minor "from any proceedings arising in Court this date."

While the appeal was pending in the appellate court, another hearing was held in the juvenile proceeding. At that hearing, on August 27, 1987, the court ordered all persons present "not to utilize the name of the minor in any reference to the minor, from any proceedings held here today, outside the courtroom." The next day appellant filed an emergency motion to vacate this order and a request for an immediate ruling in its appeal. The appellate court ...

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