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Hawaii judge makes state's first shield law ruling

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
A Hawaii trial court judge last week made the first ruling under the state's year-old media shield law, granting a…

A Hawaii trial court judge last week made the first ruling under the state’s year-old media shield law, granting a documentary filmmaker’s request to keep his unpublished footage and sources confidential, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported.

Kauai Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe declined to allow Joseph Brescia to depose or subpoena filmmaker Keoni Kealoha Alvarez, who was not a party in the suit, about material he gathered while documenting Native Hawaiian burial practices. Brescia is a litigant in a property suit who allegedly sought to build on land containing such grave sites. After a hearing with the judge, Alvarez, along with the Hawaii ACLU and attorney James J. Bickerton, successfully moved for a protective order pursuant to the state shield law.

Although the Hawaii shield law explicitly applies to traditional journalists employed by print publications or broadcast stations, non-traditional journalists like Alvarez also qualify if their activities are “materially similar” to that of such journalists and they regularly report or disseminate news to the general public.