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Florida “Ghost Ship” Story May Be Told

The Third District issued a terse opinion last Friday in Maria Gagliardo v. In Re The Matter of the Barnham Children.  The case arises from the underlying disappearance and presumed murder of the husband-and-wife captain/crew of the “Joe Cool” charter boat which went missing after leaving Miami for the Bahamas.  According to this September 2007 TIME magazine story, the owners were presumed murdered by the two men who chartered the boat.  Additional information on the missing ship is here, here, and here.  At least one suspect received multiple life sentences.

But our case was not a criminal one.  An aunt was appointed guardian for the children while another family member apparently informed the family (and court) that she was going to write a book about the nationally-publicized incident.  The aunt was able to convince a trial judge to enter an order restricting the other family members from publishing information about the children or the family.  The writer, armed now with the ACLU, appealed.  The Third DCA, in a short 1-2 page opinion, held that this was a well-publicized event and that the special circumstances necessary to put prior restraints on free speech under the First Amendment do not exist here.

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