Freedom of speech challenged after policeman chased protesters

The court hears protesters and the media protesting the anonymous trial of a police officer.

Image of the west side of the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center along the Scioto Mile and the banks of the Scioto River

The court hears protesters and the media protesting the anonymous trial of a police officer.

A single hand gesture from a Cincinnati police officer has led to a lawsuit against more than 20 people, who the officer says are trying to “dox” him online. The lawsuit sparked four separate appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court.

At a forum hosted by city council in response to public protests over race and policing in 2020, a Cincinnati police officer assigned to crowd control gave an “OK” hand gesture , touching his thumb and forefinger. He claims the gesture was in response to a question about the status of another officer.

Julie Niesen and Terhas White were among several citizens present at the council meeting. Niesen, White, and others interpreted the symbol as a gesture used by white supremacists.

The two women and others posted comments on social media indicating that the officer, whose name was not identified at the time, was a white supremacist, a racist and was using the gesture to intimidate members of the the crowd of the forum.

The day after the council meeting, White filed a formal complaint against the officer with the Citizen Complaint Authority, a municipal agency that receives and investigates complaints against Cincinnati police officers. On social media, another protester threatened to post personally-identifying information about the officer, an act known as doxing.

Officer sues protesters under a pseudonym
The agent filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Common Plea Court against Niesen, White and several other named and unnamed defendants, citing, among other things, libel and invasion of privacy. He applied to the court for permission to proceed anonymously under the pseudonym “MR” and indicated that he was an officer assigned to the department’s violent crime squad and a member of the gang and gang unit. the SWAT team.

MR claimed that the protesters were trying to doxize him by posting his name, address and other personal information online. He argued that the current anti-police climate and threats made to him on social media made him fear for his safety and that of his family.

The trial court granted him the right to proceed under the initials MR and to seal an affidavit which he submitted with the reasons justifying his need to remain anonymous. The trial court upheld the police officer’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) preventing protesters from posting identifying information about him.

The Court of Appeal dismisses the case
Niesen and White appealed the trial court’s ruling, arguing that a TRO constitutes an unconstitutional “prior restriction” on their First Amendment right to free speech.

The First District ruled that a TRO was not a final appealable order and dismissed the case. The appeals court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to consider the matter unless the order was an injunction, which the trial court had not yet imposed. The women appealed the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

The sealing decision generates legal proceedings against the judge
As protesters challenged the right to limit the information they could share, media and freedom of expression advocates challenged the trial court’s ability to allow a public official to remain anonymous while prosecuting charges. private citizens.

The Cincinnati Enquirer quickly learned of the anonymously closed case and covered the legal proceedings. The case also caught the attention of Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Volokh directs the First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic at UCLA Law School and is the author of the manual “The First Amendment and related Statutes. ”

The journal and the teacher has filed separate motions to compel Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan to lift her orders allowing the officer to continue his lawsuit anonymously. The Enquirer and Volokh also opposed the court’s decision to seal the officer’s affidavit which explained his reasoning for requesting anonymity.

Judge Shanahan amended the sealing order, requiring MR to submit a redacted version of the affidavit that provided certain information sought by the Enquirer and Volokh. The newspaper and the professor each requested writs from the First District requiring the trial court to publish the unredacted version of the affidavit and prevent the court from allowing the officer to continue the case under the pseudonym.

The First District determined that the cases were moot since the trial court changed the order. Unlike the writs, the trial court noted that during the libel suit proceedings, the Enquirer was able to identify the officer and published articles that named the officer.

The Enquirer and Volokh have filed three separate appeals against the decisions of the First District. The Enquirer and Volokh each appealed against the writs refused by the First District. Volokh filed a second appeal, arguing that the first district had not followed the proper procedure to conclude that the matter was moot.

The Supreme Court consolidated the three cases of writ, State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer and Volokh v. Shanahan for oral argument, which will take place immediately after the Court has heard MR v. Niesen when it meets in Columbus for a two-day session on November 9-10. Two more cases will be heard on November 9 after the four cases involving the MR trial. The court will hear three more cases on November 10. Pleadings begin each day at 9 a.m.

Details of oral argument
The arguments will be broadcast live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live and archived on The Ohio chain.

In addition to these highlights, the Court’s Office of Public Information today published preview articles on each case, available through the case name links.

Tuesday, November 9

A mother has made an indisputable claim to rape and burglary in Highland County for recording sexual activity with her 2-year-old and sending the video to her boyfriend. In State c. Smith, the mother explains that it is necessary to have “sexual behavior”, as defined in state law, for a rape conviction. She maintains that her actions did not constitute sexual behavior, so she could not be convicted of rape. The prosecutor maintains that the mother ordered her son to do something sexual to him that falls within the meaning of sexual behavior in the rape law.

A Greene County Estates Court The judge faces a six-month suspension without pay because he grilled an unsuspecting man on the witness stand after the man publicly asked whether the judge should preside over cases in which his daughter represents a party in the case. The man’s mother was deceased and the judge’s daughter represented the estate. The man admitted to signing a waiver, saying he believed the judge could be impartial, and he did not publicly express any dissatisfaction with the probate court process. However, at a county commission meeting, he questioned whether it was ethical for the judge to oversee cases involving his daughter, who owns the judge’s former law firm. In Disciplinary council c. O’Diam, the judge admits that attacking the man was wrong, but feels he deserves a public reprimand, not a downtime.

Wednesday November 10

A man who was guarding a couple’s home in North Canton in June 2017 killed them when they returned from vacation. He waived his right to a jury trial, pleaded guilty to six offenses and was sentenced to death. Among the 13 legal questions that the man raises in State c. Brinkman, he accuses the Stark County District Attorney of misconduct during the trial, in part suggesting that the prosecutor attributed a motive to the murders that was not part of the stated facts. He also argues that a doctor should have testified to the effect that an increase in medication might have had on his behavior. The prosecutor describes the state’s leeway in framing its arguments and argues that defense lawyers presented numerous mitigating circumstances.

In 2018, the Williams County Sheriff was frustrated with the work of the area’s children’s services agency and posted on his office website a more than 600-page report on cases involving children. A few documents revealed confidential information, and the sheriff was convicted of the unauthorized disclosures. The former sheriff argues in City of Bryan v. Cities that the allegations had to first be examined by the state ethics commission before criminal charges could be laid in court. The city retorts that possible ethics violations by public officials can unfold in two ways: the commission can examine the allegations or a prosecutor can independently investigate and lay charges.

Following the death of a woman, one of her sisters and her sister’s husband adopted the woman’s three children. The woman’s other sister – the children’s aunt – said she was cut off from the children in 2019, and she sued in Summit County for the right to see them. In Davis vs. Nathaniel, the aunt rejects the view of the Court of Appeal that she no longer has the right to ask a court for the company of the children. She argues that children still have the same maternal parents they had before their mother died and that she has the right to stay in touch with them. Adoptive parents respond that it is their fundamental right to decide how to bring up their children.

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