Reporter's Privilege

This section covers the use of subpoenas to force journalists to disclose their confidential news sources and unpublished information. Shield laws exist in forty states; if a reporter isn't covered by a shield law, there may still be a constitutional privilege that helps protect sources and information. This section also covers official attempts to seize journalists' work product and documents without a warrant.

A subpoena that has everyone a-Twitter

A New York judge ruled that the online service provider must turn over user’s information in a case over arrests during the Occupy protests
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“Take the bridge! Take the bridge!” shouted Occupy Wall Street activists as they descended onto the Brooklyn Bridge one afternoon in early October.

AP Photo by Stephanie Keith

Federal appeals court rejects academic researchers' reporter's privilege defense

Emily Miller | Reporter's Privilege | News | July 9, 2012
July 9, 2012

The First Amendment-based reporter's privilege does not extend to a pair of academic researchers working on an oral history project for a Massachusetts university, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) ruled Friday.

Government says it will not seek testimony of journalists in Kiriakou prosecution

Emily Miller | Reporter's Privilege | News | July 9, 2012
July 9, 2012

The U.S. government announced it will not subpoena journalists as witnesses in the prosecution of a former intelligence officer who allegedly leaked classified information.

UC Berkeley police settle with unlawfully arrested photographer for $162,500; more police training

Raymond Baldino | Reporter's Privilege | News | July 5, 2012
July 5, 2012

The University of California Berkeley Police Department has settled with an independent photographer who sued the department after he was arrested and had his photographs confiscated while covering a protest in 2009. As part of the $162,500 settlement, the department has also agreed to change its policies towards the media and train officers about journalists' legal protections.

Federal appellate court allows former prosecutor to investigate Detroit newspaper's government source

Amanda Simmons | Reporter's Privilege | News | June 27, 2012
June 27, 2012

A federal appeals court allowed a former Detroit prosecutor to continue investigating the identity of a source who leaked information about an internal ethics probe against him to a Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper reporter. The decision, which was released Friday, overturns a district court’s ruling that threw out the case last year and now leaves a newspaper vulnerable to investigations eight years after a U.S. Department of Justice insider leaked information to the reporter.

Fourth Circuit considers reporter’s subpoena in CIA leak case

Will the district court’s protection of confidential sources stand?
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The U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. (4th Cir.) recently heard arguments in one of the most significant press freedom cases in recent years. The court will be called on to determine whether James Risen, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for The New York Times, will be required to testify against a former CIA analyst who is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for divulging government secrets.

Texas court finds environmental website publisher not entitled to protection under state shield law

Amanda Simmons | Reporter's Privilege | News | May 31, 2012
May 31, 2012

A Texas state judge recently ordered a local website publisher to turn over e-mail messages and other newsgathering materials, finding she did not qualify as a journalist under the state's shield law.

U.S. files unopposed motion to seal parts of oral argument in Sterling, Risen appeals

Chris Healy | Reporter's Privilege | News | April 10, 2012
April 10, 2012

Department of Justice attorneys have filed an unopposed motion to close to the public parts of the upcoming oral argument concerning the Espionage Act prosecution of former CIA analyst Jeffrey Sterling and the related subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen.

First Circuit hears oral argument in Boston College subpoenas case

Chris Healy | Reporter's Privilege | News | April 5, 2012
April 5, 2012

Promises of confidentiality made to compile an oral history of "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland must be upheld by the court to protect the participants, even though the British government says the records contain information about the murder of a mother of ten, according to parties fighting subpoenas in oral arguments before a federal appellate court yesterday.

Subpoena for Salon reporter in obscenity trial dropped

Haley Behre | Reporter's Privilege | Feature | March 2, 2012
March 2, 2012

A journalist who was subpoenaed to testify at an obscenity trial for an artist specializing in pornography, will no longer have to testify because the Department of Justice dropped the subpoena without explanation.