Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
Date Filed: Jan. 13, 2020
Background: On Aug. 16, 2019, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham suspended the press credentials of Brian Karem, White House correspondent for Playboy and a regular CNN contributor, for 30 days. She cited an incident more than a month earlier between Karem and former President Trump aide Sebastian Gorka after a “Social Media Summit” in the White House Rose Garden. Grisham said that Karem’s actions did not conform to acceptable standards but recognized that the White House lacked clear rules for behavior. She went ahead with the suspension, arguing that Karem’s behavior violated an unwritten but “widely-shared understanding” regarding “decorum” and “professional[ism].”
Karem filed a federal lawsuit in August seeking a preliminary injunction that would restore his press pass, arguing that the suspension of his credentials, based on vague, ad hoc standards never previously articulated, violated both his First and Fifth Amendment rights. In September, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the injunction, restoring Karem’s press pass. Citing the 1977 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Sherrill v. Knight, the district court ruled that Grisham’s failure to give fair notice of the circumstances under which a press pass could be suspended meant that Karem’s due process claim was likely to succeed.
In response, Trump and Grisham appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Our Position: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit should uphold the district court’s decision restoring Karem’s press pass.
- The Constitution requires that the White House provide meaningful due process before denying, suspending, or revoking a journalist’s press pass.
- Sherill’s requirement that the White House “articulate and publish an explicit and meaningful standard governing denial of White House press passes” is essential for an informed electorate and accountable executive branch.
Quote: “The Constitution recognizes that a free press is necessary to keeping the public informed about government activity and protects the right of the press to gather and publish the news. Suspending a journalist’s hard pass and denying that journalist access to White House press facilities deprives the public of reporting about presidents and their administrations and may only occur when stringent and exacting First Amendment and due process requirements are satisfied.”
Related: Reporters Committee Legal Director Katie Townsend issued a statement in August in support of Karem.
In November 2018, the Reporters Committee and Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a lawsuit brought by White House Correspondent Jim Acosta and his network, CNN, after the reporter’s press pass was revoked.
In 1977, the Reporters Committee, along with the officers of the White House Correspondents Association and the National Press Club, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Sherrill, a First Amendment and due process challenge to the Secret Service’s denial of security credentials to a reporter with The Nation.
Brief co-signers: 44 media organizations