AUGUSTA –– Scott Dolan, legal affairs reporter for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, was presented with the Sunshine Award from the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition on Monday for challenging a judge’s order not to report on certain court proceedings.

Dolan was presented the award at a State House news conference in Augusta.

Dolan was covering a proceeding in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on Jan. 6 when Judge Jeffrey Moskowitz issued an order to the media to report only the statements made by the prosecutor and defense counsel in court. Moskowitz forbade the reporting of other statements made by potential victims in the case, which involved a lawyer who was charged with domestic violence.

Dolan protested and asked for time to contact the newspaper’s legal counsel but was denied.

After consulting with the newspaper’s lawyers, Dolan wrote and the newspaper published a story about the proceedings, including the judge’s order and aspects of the hearing that were subject to the gag order.

“The judge’s order, and Mr. Dolan’s response, garnered national press attention criticizing the order and praising Mr. Dolan for challenging Judge Moskowitz and protecting public access,” said Suzanne Goucher, coalition president.

Moskowitz eventually held a hearing to rescind his order and issued a personal apology to Dolan in court.

“What took Judge Moskowitz 48 hours to acknowledge was something Mr. Dolan knew immediately and instinctively,” said Judy Meyer, the coalition’s first vice president. “He recognized the clear violation of public access and acted without hesitation to protest the gag order. It took a tremendous amount of courage to stand and defy the judge in the courtroom, and the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition is pleased and proud to award him its 2015 Sunshine Award as a result.”

The award honors citizens, journalists, media organizations or community groups that “have championed, protected, and promoted public access to government meetings, public records, and court proceedings, or otherwise promoted the public’s right to know and to publish, broadcast, and speak freely about issues of public concern,” the coalition’s news release said.

Sunday marked the beginning of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to inform the public about open government and freedom of information.

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