Court: Superior Court of the State of New Jersey, Ocean County
Date Filed: Oct. 28, 2020
Update: On Nov. 28, 2020, the court denied the plaintiffs’ request to redepose Shlomie Klein. The court also granted the Reporters Committee’s motion for leave to file a friend-of-the-court brief. On appeal, the Reporters Committee made similar arguments in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court on April 27, 2022.
Background: In 2018, Yecheskel Schwab and his business, Datamap Intelligence, LLC, filed a defamation lawsuit against Shlomie Klein and several others for posts on two websites, jleaks and hefkervelt. During Klein’s deposition, he attempted to invoke the New Jersey shield law to protect the identities of his sources and other information obtained in the newsgathering process. New Jersey’s shield law is one of the strongest laws in the nation, providing reporters an absolute right in civil cases not to be compelled to testify or disclose sources and information obtained in the course of their professional activities.
So far, the trial court has not permitted Klein to invoke the shield law’s protections. The plaintiffs are now seeking to sanction Klein and compel his redeposition.
Our Position: The court should hold that Klein, like other journalists connected with nontraditional news media, can invoke the New Jersey shield law’s protections.
- The shield law affords critical protection for the exercise of First Amendment rights.
- Shield law protections apply to journalists connected with nontraditional news media like blogs, including Klein.
- Klein can invoke the shield law even if he denied publishing the specific blog posts at issue in this case.
Quote: “Without the Shield Law’s protections, journalists would have fewer sources of information, and newsworthy matters such as abuses of power would remain unexposed to the public.”
Related: Earlier this year, the Reporters Committee urged a Washington state court to quash a Seattle Police Department subpoena requiring five news organizations to turn over unedited footage and photographs taken during a protest. The brief argued that the subpoena violated the Washington shield law and the First Amendment. In September, the police department abandoned its efforts to enforce the subpoena.
In 2018, the Reporters Committee and 19 news organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting reporter Jamie Kalven’s motion to quash a subpoena requiring him to testify about his sources in a case in which three Chicago police officers faced charges for allegedly conspiring to obstruct justice in the investigation of fellow a former officer who shot and killed a Black teenager in 2014.
In 2017, the Reporters Committee and 48 news organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting New York Times reporter Frances Robles’ attempt to quash a subpoena seeking unpublished notes and testimony regarding an interview she conducted with a suspect in a murder case.
For more information about shield laws in each state and federal circuit, check out the Reporters Committee’s Reporter’s Privilege Compendium.