R.I. child custody case spawns free-speech issue

01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, July 23, 2009

By Talia Buford

Journal Staff Writer

WARWICK — A child custody case has spawned a case about free speech and just who is allowed to talk about the intricate details of court proceedings and where.

Michelle Bouthillier Langlois, 41, has opinions about her brother Michael Bouthillier’s child custody case with his ex-wife. And lately, she’d taken to sharing her thoughts via status updates on Facebook. Like this one:

“Court postponed to May 27. Another month Michael not allowed to see nor speak with his children. More time for children to forget their biological dad and bond with step-father. So much for the Judicial System! Michael has seen his children about five times and spoke to them maybe 10 since November 25th!!!!!!”

She also posted an advertisement on craigslist, asking for donations to help pay for a lie-detector test to show that her brother treated the children well and deserves to be able to contact him.

To Langlois, the postings are a way to publicize her brother’s situation because she didn’t think the truth was coming out in court.

To Tracey Martin, Bouthillier’s ex-wife, Langlois’ actions are putting her family in danger and have opened her and her two children to ridicule from Internet commentators. She filed complaints with the Police Department in Pawtucket, where she lives, and asked for a domestic-abuse protection order from the Family Court.

“Any further contact with [Langlois] could further psychologically damage the children,” Martin, 37, wrote in an affidavit to the court. “This has been a mental assault on my children and myself. She has placed my children and myself and my family in danger that is unable to be taken away.”

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