Seattle Times Co. v. Rhinehart

467 U.S. 20, 104 S. Ct. 2199 (1984)



A protective order issued in state discovery proceedings, and prohibiting the parties seeking discovery from publishing, disseminating, or using the information in any way except where necessary to prepare for and try the case, does not offend the First Amendment where entered on a showing of good cause as required by the state counterpart to Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is limited to the context of pretrial civil discovery, and does not restrict the dissemination of the information if gained from other sources.


Respondent religious leader brought a civil action against petitioner newspaper for printing known fictional and untrue statements about him. The district court granted petitioner's motion to compel respondent to provide financial documents pertaining to the identity of donors and the amounts donated to his group. Respondent appealed the court’s decision and filed a motion for a protective order prohibiting petitioner from disseminating information gathered through discovery. Petitioner sought review of the order granting respondent's motion on the grounds that the protective order violated petitioner's First Amendment rights. The state supreme court affirmed both the production order and the protective order.  On further appeal, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the lower court’s decision.


Did the protective order prohibiting petitioner newspaper from disseminating information gathered through discovery from respondent religious leader violate petitioner’s First Amendment rights?




The protective order prohibiting the dissemination of information gathered through discovery that could result in annoyance, embarrassment, and oppression did not violate petitioner newspaper's First Amendment rights. The protective order did not preclude the dissemination of information gathered outside of the discovery process and thus was not an abuse of the court's discretion.

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