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Monday, October 03, 2016

Ind. Courts - "My grandfather and the First Amendment"

That is the heading of Alexandra Petri's long post today in her Washington Post blog. Some quotes:

It was Tuesday, July 20, 1965. [James T.] Neal was editor of the Noblesville Daily Ledger, a small Indiana newspaper. The day before, he had been arrested and charged with contempt of court for a column he had written criticizing a judge’s new policy to crack down on traffic violations.

The case made local, then national headlines: EDITOR AT NOBLESVILLE RAPS JUDGE; ARRESTED (Rushville Daily Republican of Rushville, Ind.); CHARGE OF CONTEMPT FILED AGAINST EDITOR (Indianapolis Star); IRKED JURIST HAS EDITOR ARRESTED (The News-Palladium of Benton Harbor, Mich).

Neal had not expected to make national news defending freedom of the press. He had not expected his “County Line” column to make news of any kind. As he told the Kokomo Morning Times, “I write a 700-word piece for the County Line almost daily so I never know what to expect from each paragraph.”

He had certainly not anticipated that one paragraph in his Saturday column would so incense Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Edward New that he would issue him a citation for contempt of court. The citation charged Neal with writing “a disdainful, despicable, scurrilous and contemptuous article about this court” that was “intended to inflict ridicule and indignity on the image of the Hamilton Circuit Court and embarrass the judge thereof, and all law enforcement officers in the county.”

No column would have merited arrest, but this one was considerably milder than the citation made it sound. Neal had called the newly announced policy, which would send all traffic violators to Circuit Court, “an excellent example of shotgun justice,” noting, “it isn’t necessary to upset a whole community to get at the handful of motorists who run wild on the highways. If the past proves a good example, what will happen is some kindly old lady will spend the night in jail for driving too slow, while some mad motorist charged with manslaughter will eventually stall his trial right out of court.”

That is just a sample. From near the end of the long tribute:
James T. Neal was my grandfather. He passed away this week.

In the days since losing him I have been hunting down this story in newspaper archives — partly to pay tribute to his work for journalism, but also, selfishly, so that I could hear from him again. And he is there to be found, in all the stories, in every interview, with his familiar quiet humor and steady dedication to doing what was right. Each sentence is a gift, another chance to wrap a familiar, beloved voice around myself like an old sweater.

ILB: Here is James T. Neal's obituary (Jan 5, 1921 - Sep 27, 2016). It begins:
James T. Neal, 95, who died September 27 in Indianapolis, was the third generation in his family to own, edit, and publish the Noblesville Daily Ledger. He began his 36-year newspaper career as a paper carrier and eventually, as editor, guided the newspaper in 1980 to the title of Blue Ribbon Newspaper in the annual contest of the Hoosier State Press Association. Neal wrote a daily column six days a week for 25 years.

His commitment to freedom of the press and honest and open government prompted his induction in 1990 to the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame. He had previously received the Ball State University Honors Award for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 3, 2016 03:37 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts