Subpoenas

Boal v. United States

July 29, 2016

Reporter and filmmaker Mark Boal conducted a series of interviews with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl that were published on the Serial podcast in 2015. Subsequently, the military prosecutor in the court martial of Sgt. Bergdahl informed Boal that he intended to subpoena Boal to obtain the recordings of the interviews in their entirety. Before the military subpoena was issued, Boal filed a complaint in the Central District of California arguing that the reporter's privilege should protect against the compelled disclosure of the recordings. The Reporters Committee and 36 other media organizations filed an amicus brief in support of Boal. The amicus brief explains the important policy reasons underpinning recognition of the reporter's privilege, argues that the reporter's privilege extends to Boal and asserts that the Court should address Boal's claims now, so that he can avoid unnecessary injury.

Court finds reporter's privilege not waived after complying with portion of subpoena

Michael Lambert | Reporter's Privilege | News | December 18, 2015
News
December 18, 2015

What constitutes a waiver of the reporter’s privilege is largely unchartered territory for courts, leaving journalists with little case law to rely on when determining whether to respond to subpoenas.

This week a California federal court shed light on the scope of waiver by recognizing a journalist’s right to refuse to produce unpublished notes even after disclosing some components of her reporting. The court also held the defendant did not overcome the qualified reporter’s privilege because it did not exhaust alternative means for obtaining the requested information.

The shield law issue emerged out of a class action lawsuit filed in 2014 by the estates of 78 miners who died in a 1968 explosion at the No. 9 mine in Farmington, West Virginia. The plaintiffs sued the Consolidation Coal Company, owners of the mine, for fraud, concealment, and nondisclosure.

Montana shield law expanded to forbid government subpoenas of third-party records

Soo Rin Kim | Reporter's Privilege | News | October 22, 2015
News
October 22, 2015

With new amendments to the state shield law, journalists in Montana will not have to worry about electronic communications services turning over reporters's records to the government.

House Bill 207, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, "prohibits government bodies from requesting or requiring disclosure of privileged news media information from services that transmit electronic communications."

The bill was signed into law in April and took effect on Oct. 1 as an amendment to the existing Montana shield law, known as the "Media Confidentiality Act."

Virginia Supreme Court won't force Yelp to reveal identities of anonymous commenters

Kimberly Chow | Libel | News | April 16, 2015
News
April 16, 2015

In a victory for Yelp and its anonymous commenters, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled today that the circuit court could not force the California-based online review site to reveal the identities of users who had posted negative reviews of a Virginia carpet-cleaning company.

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.

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.

D.C. high court allows immediate appeal of denial of anti-SLAPP motion

Kevin Delaney | Libel | News | May 30, 2014
News
May 30, 2014

The District of Columbia's high court ruled Thursday that denials of anti-SLAPP motions to quash are immediately appealable, reversing a lower court order that would have forced Wikipedia to disclose data revealing the identity of an anonymous poster to the company’s site.

The case started after Susan L. Burke, a prominent human-rights attorney, filed a lawsuit claiming several anonymous defendants conspired to defame her by making changes to a Wikipedia page devoted to her legal work. Burke requested Wikipedia’s user data in an attempt to uncover the posters’ true identities.

Supreme Court won't hear Holmes appeal over Fox News reporter subpoena in Aurora theater shooting

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Reporter's Privilege | News | May 27, 2014
News
May 27, 2014

The Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of a New York ruling that said Fox News reporter Jana Winter did not have to testify in the Colorado murder trial of James Holmes, the accused Aurora theater shooter. The lower court’s opinion therefore still stands, and Winter will not be forced to testify.

The Colorado court wanted Winter to testify about the sources who gave her confidential information about a notebook Holmes sent to his psychiatrist before he opened fire in a Colorado movie theater in July 2012.

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.