In late February, the Durham County courthouse issued a new rule to prohibit anyone involved in an abuse/neglect/dependency proceeding, including parents, from discussing their cases with anyone else. This gag rule violates the First Amendment. 

The rule comes as a direct reaction to impactful media advocacy in the Assembly and WBTV, including stories from Emancipate NC staff, Toia Potts and Elizabeth Simpson, telling unheard stories about the abuses and unfairness of the family policing system that took Toia’s children away from her.

The rule says: “No party or attorney shall disseminate case-related information to the media or public that identifies or can lead to the identification of a child or family involved in A/N/D Court. Release of such information may be subject to sanctions and contempt of court.”

Meanwhile, last month, Emancipate NC’s Ian Mance and Elizabeth Simpson won a writ of mandamus from the Court of Appeals. The North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered Durham District Judge Doretta Walker to rule on a motion about the unfair closure of a public courtroom that she had refused to enter any ruling on for six months, after she closed court five days in a row in September 2023. 

These are just two more examples of how the Durham courthouse shields government workers from public scrutiny. This is not about protecting children. Studies show that open courtrooms protect due process, increase government transparency and prompt functioning, and protect the rights of children and families. Secret courtrooms are where government abuses and slow bureaucracy breed. 

Read more about the new unconstitutional rule from Jeffrey Billman about  in The Assembly →