Proposed gag order in Harrison family law case put on hold

CLARKSBURG – At least until the chief justice of the state Supreme Court determines if a judge should remain on the case, a Harrison County man remains free to speak his mind about his family law ordeal.

Mary E. Snead, the guardian ad litem for the children of Joel and Tina Kirk in their pending divorce, filed a motion in Harrison Family Court on Sept. 27 to prohibit Joel, 43, of Bridgeport, from publically disclosing any more details about the case. The need for the gag order, Snead said, was due to information about the children, including her Dec. 14, 2010 report, posted on the Web site for A Voice for Men, a men’s rights group based in Houston, Texas.

The report, along with audio and video recordings that were admitted into evidence in closed-door proceedings that are now online for all the world to see is not in the children’s best interest, Snead said. In her motion, Snead asked that Judge Lori B. Jackson not only prohibit Kirk from releasing any more information about the case, but also order AVFM to remove the information currently posted on their Web site.

“The children in this proceeding have suffered greatly and should not have their names and confidential statements published on the world wide web where anyone can read their disclosures and hear their grief,” Snead said.

“This GAL specifically states that such furthering of this conflict and publication of confidential information is not in the children’s best interest and requests that this Court enter an order enjoining the publication of any and all information related to the children.”

“Specially,” Snead added, “this GAL request that Mr. Kirk be enjoined from releasing information regarding the children, that said web sites be enjoined from publishing said information, and that said web sites be ordered to immediately remove the GAL’s recommendations, the links to audio of the children, and any information or documentation that serve to identify the children in any way.”

The next day, records show Jackson set Oct. 4 for a hearing on Snead’s motion. Along with marking out the name of Kirk’s attorney James W. Douglas on the list of names of people to be served with it, Jackson wrote in the order that “Ms. Snead shall be responsible for ensuring that Mr. Kirk receives notice of the hearing as he is currently self-represented in this matter.”

In a motion filed Oct. 3, Kirk, an active duty Air Force pilot, said Jackson’s statement he is currently self-represented is “inaccurate and presumptuous.” In his motion, Kirk asked both for a continuance so he can file a writ of prohibition to circuit court, and that Jackson recuse herself from the case.

Later that day, Jackson granted Kirk’s motion to continue the case pending determination by Chief Justice Menis E. Ketchum if she should remain on the case.

The West Virginia Record contacted Jackson for a comment on her order apparently restricting Kirk from having Douglas, or any other attorney, represent him at the Oct. 4 hearing. She said that “attorneys are always welcome in my court, and I hope attorneys come to most hearings because it makes proceedings somewhat smoother.”

Before making any additional comments, Jackson said she had a prepared statement to release, and would fax it to The Record’s office. However, the statement was not received by presstime.

Also, The Record attempted to get a comment from Snead, an attorney with Robinson and McElwee, and Afton Aman, Tina Kirk’s co-counsel, with the Clarksburg firm of Smith, McMunn and Glover, about the proposed gag order. Snead did not return repeated calls, and Aman said only, “We’re really just interested in keeping the children out of the spotlight and that their information is protected.”

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