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Judge quashes subpoenas for newspaper editors

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NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   TEXAS   ·   Confidentiality/Privilege   ·   April 6, 2007 Judge quashes subpoenas…

NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   TEXAS   ·   Confidentiality/Privilege   ·   April 6, 2007

Judge quashes subpoenas for newspaper editors

  • Two newspaper editors do not have to testify about an editorial they wrote in 2005, a judge has decided.

April 6, 2007  ·   A judge in Edinburg, Texas, on Thursday dismissed subpoenas of the two top editors of a local newspaper, The (McLean) Monitor, agreeing with the paper’s attorney that the subpoenas compromised the journalists’ First Amendment rights.

Editor Steve Fagan and Managing Editor Marcia Caltabiano-Ponce were subpoenaed on Tuesday to testify in a case based on an editorial the paper ran in March 2005. Assistant District Attorney Homer Vasquez wanted Fagan and Caltabiano-Ponce to testify to show that public opinion supported removing Judge Bobby Flores from overseeing the criminal trial of his colleague, Judge Rudy Delgado.

The editors wrote an editorial in 2005 calling for Flores to recuse himself from presiding over Delgado’s trial.

An attorney for The Monitor, Rex Leach, filed a motion to quash the subpoenas on Wednesday. Administrative Judge J. Manuel Banales granted the request Thursday morning during a hearing on a motion to recuse Flores from the trial. Banales denied that request.

Leach said he argued that an opinion piece is not “relevant evidence” in this type of case. He also said that allowing the subpoenas would violate the First Amendment rights of the newspaper.

“It would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press if every time you wrote an editorial, you could be called into court to talk about it,” Leach said.

Leach said that raising questions about the threat to the First Amendment offered the judge “a little extra incentive” to quash the subpoenas.

“I think we delivered the message to the district attorney that, on issues like this, he is wasting his time subpoenaing editors,” Leach said.

(Media Counsel: Rex Leach, Atlas and Hall, Edinburg, Texas)LM

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