Pensler v. Fox

January 15, 2015

A libel plaintiff suing a local FOX station in Chicago sought to obtain a news producer's communications with the FOX in-house attorney. FOX argued that those communications should not have to be released because of the attorney-client privilege. The plaintiff argued that such a privilege is not recognized in Illinois. The Reporters Committee argued that protection of communications between news reporters and producers and their in-house counsel is essential to preserving the integrity of confidential pre-publication legal advice. If neither reporters nor lawyers can trust in that confidentiality, reporters may not feel comfortable being completely open with the lawyer, who in turn cannot provide the best advice. Furthermore, the brief points out that it is impractical to expect that counsel will always communicate only with the most powerful executives at the news organization and not with producers.

Court finds identity of leaker not relevant to murder trial, overturns order to journalist to disclose source

Kimberly Chow | Reporter's Privilege | News | December 16, 2014
December 16, 2014

An Illinois appellate court has reversed a trial court’s order that a reporter reveal his confidential source, shooting down the judge's conclusion that finding the identity of a leaker of a police document in a murder case justified compelled disclosure.

The Reporters Committee, joined by 38 other media organizations, filed an amicus brief in the case, People of the State of Illinois v. Bethany McKee, in April 2014.

United States v. Mohammed Hamzah Khan

October 24, 2014

A 19-year-old American, Mohammed Hamzah Khan, was arrested as he tried to fly from the United States to Turkey (ultimately to go to Iraq or Syria), and he was charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorist organizations. The government moved to have Khan's detention hearing closed to the public, because privacy interests of third-party minors would be implicated. The government filed its motion and brief under seal, so the precise justification to close the hearing was unknown. The Reporters Committee wrote a letter to express concern about closing the detention hearing, arguing that there is a well-established First Amendment right of access to preliminary proceedings in criminal cases, which may only be overcome by an overriding interest based on findings that closure was essential to preserve higher values and was narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

Illinois Supreme Court strikes down eavesdropping law

Cindy Gierhart | Privacy | News | March 21, 2014
March 21, 2014

The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the state's eavesdropping law as unconstitutional.

Annabel Melongo spent 20 months in jail, according to the Chicago Tribune, for recording three telephone conversations with a supervisor in the Cook County Court Reporter's Office.

The Illinois eavesdropping statute makes it a crime to record any conversation, even in public, without the person's consent.

Reporters Committee files brief in support of reporter ordered to reveal source of police report

Press Release | March 20, 2014
March 20, 2014
Reporters Committee files brief in support of reporter ordered to reveal source of police report

The Reporters Committee, joined by a coalition of 38 other media organizations, filed a friend-of-the-court brief last week in support of a reporter in Chicago who was ordered to testify about his confidential source in a murder trial.

Illinois v. McKee (Hosey subpoena)

March 14, 2014 reporter Joseph Hosey was ordered to testify in an Illinois murder trial regarding the identity of his source who supplied him with a police report that contained details of the double murder. The judge in the trial court applied the state's shield law to Hosey but nonetheless deprived him of the privilege, finding that the identity of the source was relevant to the trial, alternative sources had been exhausted, and the information was essential to protect the public interest. When Hosey still refused to disclose his source, the judge fined him $1,000 plus $300 a day until he complied. Hosey appealed, and the fines are on hold pending resolution of the appeal. In this amicus brief, joined by 38 other media organizations, we argue that the Illinois reporter's privilege should protect Hosey from having to reveal his source in court. We emphasize the importance of crime reporting and why reporters must have access to reliable information from law enforcement sources.

Illinois Supreme Court hears case over woman's jailing for recording public official

Michael Rooney | Privacy | News | January 14, 2014
January 14, 2014

Today, the Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that again challenges the constitutionality of the state’s eavesdropping statute. The statute outlaws the creation of audio or visual recordings of people without the consent of all parties to the recording.

The case involves Annabel Melongo, who was charged with six counts under the statute stemming from recordings made of phone conversations between herself and the Cook County court reporter’s office in December 2009. A lower court dismissed the charges against Melongo, but not before she spent 20 months in jail because she could not post bail. The state is now appealing the ruling.

Illinois reporter found in contempt of court for not revealing sources

Latara Appleby | Reporter's Privilege | News | September 20, 2013
September 20, 2013

An Illinois judge found a reporter in contempt of court today for not revealing his confidential sources for a story he wrote about a double murder in Joliet, Ill.

Hosey has been fined $1,000 and has to pay court fees. He was also fined $300 a day until he reveals his sources, though the fines have been stayed pending an appeal, as reported by Kenneth Schmetterer, the reporter's attorney, filed an appeal immediately after the ruling, reported.

Illinois judge orders Patch reporter to hand over documents identifying source in murder trial

Nicole Lozare | Reporter's Privilege | News | August 30, 2013
August 30, 2013

An Illinois judge denied a Patch reporter protection under the state shield law and ordered him to reveal his confidential source about a high-profile double murder trial in the town of Joliet.

Judge rules Ill. eavesdropping law unconstitutional

Lilly Chapa | Newsgathering | News | February 25, 2013
February 25, 2013

A former Illinois elementary school principal cannot be charged under the state's controversial eavesdropping law because the law was not narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, rendering it unconstitutional, a judge ruled last week.

Circuit Judge David Akemann dismissed the Geneva School District’s lawsuit against employee Margaret Pennington because Illinois’ eavesdropping law punishes innocent conduct while restricting the ability of individuals to record conversations.