In early April, Chief Justice John Roberts visited the Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon to observe arguments related to an environmental moot court advocacy competition.
Naturally, as The Oregonian reports, undergraduate journalist Anthony Ruiz wanted to cover the event for The Pioneer Log, the private school’s student-run weekly newspaper. He wrote a generally flattering article about the judge’s visit to the 80th-ranked law school in all the land (says U.S. News).
School officials then apparently strongly encouraged the newspaper not to publish the story. The reason for the censorship? The head of an American law school wanted the Supreme Court’s press office to approve the story before it was printed.
The school’s dean, Robert Klonoff, dispatched Ruiz’s story to a couple of Supreme Court press representatives. “Please let me know if it meets with your approval,” the dean wrote, according to The Oregonian.
Despite strenuous objections from Ruiz and his editor, Zibby Pillote, The Pioneer Log spiked the story because the Supreme Court’s press office didn’t respond to Klonoff’s request by the paper’s Wednesday publication deadline.
Officials with the Supreme Court have since graciously called the incident “a misunderstanding.”
“We do coordinate with organizations hosting a justice by reviewing drafts of promotional materials,” Kathleen Arberg, director of public information, told The Oregonian. “But we do not ask to review news coverage.”
The Pioneer Log’s editor, Pillotte, told The Daily Caller that she has serious misgivings about the incident.
“I really regret not just going ahead and publishing the story,” Pillote explained, “but I felt extremely pressured by Lise Harwin, head of public relations. She sent me an email saying that Lewis & Clark respects freedom of the press, but she said this is a special case.”
According to Pillote, Harwin also asserted that “the school was following the rules of the Justice Department.”
Harwin told The Oregonian that school officials believed that the high court would want to evaluate the story before it went to press. She called the court’s press guidelines “rigorous and fairly exhaustive.”
Klonoff told the local rag that he thought the office would be concerned about details printed in the student newspaper of a private college attended by about 2,000 undergraduates.
The law school dean said he was sorry the Pioneer Log missed its deadline.
“I believe firmly in the First Amendment, and I know the Supreme Court does as well,” he said, according to The Oregonian.
Ruiz’s article about Roberts’s visit has since been published by at the Pioneer Log’s website.