On January 14th, 2021, a federal court ruled in favor of reinstating a gag order in the case involving the January 6th riot in the U.S. Capitol, which restricts the flow of information given to the public about the ongoing investigation. The updated order was modified from the original, though the changes seem to be largely of a procedural and technical nature.
The order prohibits parties including the Justice Department, government prosecutors, and defendants from making “extrajudicial statements” about the case to the media or the public. It also makes reference to attorneys making statements to the media outside of court ordered proceedings, meaning any motions filed by lawyers should be done so in court instead of publicly.
The decision to reinstate the gag order came nearly one month after it was put in place, and its scope was narrowed from its original form which prohibited attorneys from talking to reporters about filings in the case, opening the door for those parties to discuss defendants’ conditions.
The order was originally put in place in December with the intention of protecting the defendant’s right to a fair trial, after a number of them appeared in the media speaking to their guilt or innocence. There has also been on-going criticism of the lack of transparency surrounding the investigation into the Capitol Hill riot.
It is unclear whether this new ruling will make any significant changes in this regard, particularly considering that much of the work of the prosecution is done behind closed doors. Nonetheless, this ruling will likely help serve the dual purpose of protecting defendants’ right to a fair trial and providing more transparency about the ongoing investigation into the actions of the Capitol Hill rioters.