Gag Order Law & Legal Definition


A gag order is type of order. It can either be a legal order by a court or government, or a private order by an employer or other institution, restricting information or comments from being made public. It can also be called a suppression order. Most, gag orders are used against participants involved in a lawsuit or criminal trial especially when it is a widely publicized or sensational case. It is also used to prevent media from publishing unwanted information on a particular topic. For example a criminal court can issue a gag order for the media if it believes that potential jurors will be influenced by the media reporting.

Examples of gag provisions in Pennsylvania:

Pa. R. Crim. P. 110 Special Orders Governing Widely-Publicized or Sensational Cases

In a widely-publicized or sensational case, the court, on motion of either party or on its own motion, may issue a special order governing such matters as extrajudicial statements by parties and witnesses likely to interfere with the rights of the accused to a fair trial by an impartial jury, the seating and conduct in the courtroom of spectators and news media representatives, the management and sequestration of jurors and witnesses, and any other matters that the court may deem appropriate for inclusion in such an order. In such cases, it may be appropriate for the court to consult with representatives of the news media concerning the issuance of such a special order.

Pa. RPC 3.6 Trial Publicity

(a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.
(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may state:
(1) the claim, offense or defense involved and, except when prohibited by law, the identity of the persons involved;
(2) information contained in a public record;
(3) that an investigation of the matter is in progress;
(4) the scheduling or result of any step in litigation;
(5) a request for assistance in obtaining evidence and information necessary thereto;
(6) a warning of danger concerning the behavior of a person involved, when there is reason to believe that there exists the likelihood of substantial harm to an individual or to the public interest; and
(7) in a criminal case, in addition to subparagraphs (1) through (6):
(i) the identity, residence, occupation and family status of the accused;
(ii) if the accused has not been apprehended, information necessary to aid in apprehension of that person;
(iii) the fact, time and place of arrest; and
(iv) the identity of investigating and arresting officers or agencies and the length of the investigation.
(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a lawyer may make a statement that a reasonable lawyer would believe is required to protect a client from the substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by the lawyer or the lawyer's client. A statement made pursuant to this paragraph shall be limited to such information as is necessary to mitigate the recent adverse publicity.
(d) No lawyer associated in a firm or government agency with a lawyer subject to paragraph (a) shall make a statement prohibited by paragraph (a).