Shield law

Shield laws -- adopted in thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia -- provide varying degrees of protection for reporters from subpoenas. They may provide absolute or qualified protection according to the type of legal proceeding involved (civil or criminal) or the role of the journalist in the proceeding (defendant or independent third party).

Free press groups petition Attorney General on behalf of journalist James Risen

Emily Grannis | Newsgathering | News | August 14, 2014
News
August 14, 2014

More than 100,000 people, including 20 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a petition submitted to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder today urging the administration to rethink its policy of subpoenaing journalists to reveal their sources.

Seven representatives of free press organizations announced the delivery of the petition at the National Press Club this afternoon and called on the administration to drop its threatened subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen.

Risen has been fighting since 2007 to protect a confidential source he used in writing a book about the Central Intelligence Agency, and he joined the panel at the press conference today.

10th Circuit reverses dismissal of 'Dateline' defamation case

Bradleigh Chance | Libel | News | July 14, 2014
News
July 14, 2014

Last week the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that while NBCUniversal reporters did not violate anyone’s Fourth Amendment rights creating the 2008 Dateline segment titled “Tricks of the Trade,” a lower court will have to review the originally dismissed defamation claims made by an insurance broker featured in the piece.

Tyrone M. Clark and his company, Brokers’ Choice of America, initially sued NBC over video clips recorded with a hidden camera by Dateline crew members during an insurance brokers’ seminar in Colorado located on BCA property.

The reporters worked with Alabama law enforcement to gain access to the event since it was only open to licensed insurance agents, which Clark and BCA claimed to be a Fourth Amendment violation of the company’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Media organizations urge Senate to vote on federal shield bill

Cindy Gierhart | Reporter's Privilege | News | June 13, 2014
News
June 13, 2014

Spurred by a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an appeal by New York Times reporter James Risen – which could result in Risen going to jail or being fined for not naming his source – media organizations stress that now is the time to pass a federal shield bill.

More than 70 news organizations – the Reporters Committee included – sent a letter to the Senate majority and minority leaders earlier this week, urging them to schedule a vote on the shield bill.

Supreme Court will not hear Risen's appeal over subpoena in Sterling prosecution

Cindy Gierhart | Reporter's Privilege | News | June 2, 2014
News
June 2, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will not hear an appeal by New York Times reporter James Risen, who has been subpoenaed to testify in a government leaks prosecution.

Risen could now face jail or fines if he refuses to testify.

Joel Kurtzberg, Risen’s attorney, said the ball is now in the government’s court. Risen was never held in contempt because the trial court initially ruled that he was protected by the reporter’s privilege and did not have to testify. An appellate court later reversed, and that decision now stands.

Therefore, the government will have to pursue Risen’s testimony again in trial court, Kurtzberg said.

“If they say they are going to do that, we will make clear that [Risen] is not going to testify and then there would have to be a contempt hearing,” Kurtzberg said.

Ohio Supreme Court declines to hold reporter in contempt for refusing to testify

Cindy Gierhart | Reporter's Privilege | News | March 19, 2014
News
March 19, 2014

The Ohio Supreme Court decided Monday not to hold a reporter in contempt of court for refusing to testify in a disciplinary hearing against an attorney.

While the case was poised to answer the question of whether the state's reporter's privilege applied in quasi-judicial or administrative proceedings, the state's high court did not squarely answer this question. Instead of issuing a full opinion, the court briefly announced that it was dismissing the case and denying the Akron Bar Association's request to hold the reporter in contempt.

Ohio bar association asks state Supreme Court to hold reporter in contempt

Cindy Gierhart | Reporter's Privilege | News | February 12, 2014
News
February 12, 2014

The Ohio Supreme Court is set to decide whether a reporter will be forced to testify in a lawyer’s disciplinary hearing.

While Ohio has a shield statute that protects journalists from having to reveal sources of information in court, the state has not yet determined whether the reporter’s privilege extends into quasi-judicial or administrative proceedings, according to court filings.

Bill to strengthen Colorado shield law fails in committee

Cindy Gierhart | Reporter's Privilege | News | January 30, 2014
News
January 30, 2014

A bill that would have strengthened the Colorado shield law did not garner sufficient votes in the state's Senate Judiciary Committee to move forward.

Republican state Sen. Bernie Herpin introduced the bill in response to Fox News reporter Jana Winter's recent subpoena to testify before a Colorado court in the case of James Holmes, on trial for the Aurora theater shooting.

Colorado considers bill to bolster reporter shield law

Cindy Gierhart | Reporter's Privilege | News | January 16, 2014
News
January 16, 2014

The Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee considered a bill Wednesday that would strengthen the Colorado reporter shield law.

Colorado Sen. Bernie Herpin introduced the bill after Colorado courts threatened jail time for Fox News reporter Jana Winter if she did not reveal her confidential sources. The committee delayed a vote on the bill until a later date.

Fox News reporter awaits N.Y. top court's decision on subpoena

Latara Appleby | Reporter's Privilege | News | November 15, 2013
News
November 15, 2013

New York's highest court is now considering whether the state's strong shield law will apply to a Fox News reporter subpoenaed to testify in a Colorado court about her confidential sources in the James Holmes theater shooting case.

Reporter Jana Winter, who lives and works in New York, went before the New York Court of Appeals on Tuesday to fight the subpoena requested by Holmes' attorneys ordering her to reveal her sources in an exclusive story she published in 2012 about a notebook belonging to the alleged gunman. The subpoena was issued in Colorado but had to be served on Winter in New York, and the New York shield law provides greater protection for reporters than the Colorado law does. Winter is arguing that the New York courts should apply New York's protections.

Court rejects James Risen request for rehearing

Latara Appleby | Reporter's Privilege | News | October 16, 2013
News
October 16, 2013

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit declined a request for rehearing by New York Times reporter James Risen on Tuesday. Of the 14 judges, 13 rejected the petition to rehear the case.

A three-judge panel had ruled in July that Risen would have to testify to the identity of his confidential source in a story involving information leaks from the Central Intelligence Agency.