09:13, January 24 478 0 abajournal.com

2018-01-24 09:13:08
‘The Post’ gives little attention to judge who refused to stop Pentagon papers publication

Twenty-nine federal judges considered the federal government’s attempts to stop publication of the Pentagon papers, and just one—U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell of Washington, D.C.—refused to grant an injunction before the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Gesell receives only passing treatment in the film The Post, which portrays the Washington Post’s decision to publish the papers that had also been obtained by the New York Times. Gesell ruled on June 21, 1971, nine days before the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the papers’ publication.

Writing for the National Law Journal, legal writer Kenneth Jost says the passing treatment of Gesell’s role in the case “is a posthumous slight to a federal judge who served bravely and well for a quarter century in a succession of high-profile cases.”

Gesell, played by actor Angus Hepburn, “appears only briefly in the film” and he is identified by name only in the credits, Jost says.

Two days before Gesell’s ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had ordered the Washington Post to stop publication during litigation. Gesell’s refusal to grant an injunction allowed the Post to resume publication.

“Its example gave newspapers around the country the fortitude to publish their own stories as the onetime Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg spread copies of the study to newsrooms of other major papers,” Jost says.