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New Jersey appellate court refuses appeal seeking reporter’s notes

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From the Winter 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 22.

From the Winter 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 22.

A murder defendant has lost his attempt to appeal a trial court’s refusal to allow access to a reporter’s notes, according to a lawyer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The New Jersey Appellate Division decided on Dec. 7 not to accept an appeal by Rabbi Fred Neulander, who lost a trial court motion to acquire the notes in September.

Neulander did not meet filing deadlines for further appeals on the motion, according to Katherine Hatton, general counsel for Inquirer-owner Philadelphia Newspapers, which has opposed the effort to disclose Inquirer reporter Nancy Phillips’ notes.

Neulander, who was seeking access to Phillips’ notes, is accused of paying someone to kill his wife, who was found fatally beaten in her home in 1994. Phillips had developed a working relationship with Leonard Jenoff, an investigator who initially claimed that Neulander had hired him to find his wife’s killer. Months later Jenoff told Phillips that Neulander had hired him to kill his wife.

Phillips accompanied Jenoff to a diner where he confessed to authorities, and he became the state’s principal witness against the rabbi. Neulander’s attorneys have suggested that Phillips played a large role in encouraging Jenoff to confess to the authorities, calling her an “agent provocateur” with a “Svengalian presence and charm.”

On Sept. 12, Camden trial judge Linda Rosenzweig denied the defendant’s requests for Phillips’ unpublished notes. (See NM&L, Fall 2000)

Rosenzweig ruled that Phillips did not waive the reporter’s privilege by accompanying Jenoff to his confession to police. She also ruled that Neulander had not met the test for acquiring Phillips’ notes under the privilege.

A trial date has not been set in the Neulander murder case.