Sorry, we can’t tell you. And we can’t tell you that we can’t

A Kafkaesque form of media gagging order is becoming a troublingly frequent weapon in the legal battlefield.

The battle against “legalese” – the derogatory name given to incomprehensible legal jargon – has made steady progress since the term was first coined in the early 20th century. Proficiency in Latin is no longer a requirement for law students, and huge swaths of court rules have been rewritten in “plain language”.

Yet one uniquely baffling genre of court document continues to grow: a new generation of omnipotent injunctions. Injunctions are a form of court order, usually preventing the recipient from doing something. Imagine you know something important about an individual, “A”, which you attempt to publish or communicate to others. You are sued by A in an attempt to keep that information confidential – not altogether an unusual sequence of events.

In the course of the legal proceedings brought by A, you are likely to receive a court order, stating something like “the publication of all information relating to these proceedings is expressly prohibited”. If asked by a friend or colleague about the case brought against you by A, you would have to say: “I can’t talk about it, I’ve been injuncted.” Frustrating, but not uncommon. A’s injunction was probably obtained on the basis that if you were allowed to reveal the information at the heart of the case, it would render the ensuing process pointless.

Read the entire article in The Guardian. Related: “Secret gag orders undermine core Western values” on Wikileaks.


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