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Magistrate quashes Microsoft subpoena against web site reporter

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Magistrate quashes Microsoft subpoena against web site reporter 04/05/99 CALIFORNIA--A federal magistrate judge in San Jose held in late March…

Magistrate quashes Microsoft subpoena against web site reporter

04/05/99

CALIFORNIA–A federal magistrate judge in San Jose held in late March that the circumstances surrounding a subpoena issued against reporter Dan Goodin by Microsoft did not justify compelling him to disclose his confidential source for internal Microsoft e-mail.

Microsoft had argued that it needed to identify Goodin’s confidential source in order to trace alleged leaks within the company. It also contended that Goodin’s source must have been subject to a protective order issued in the underlying lawsuit between Microsoft and competitor Sun Microsystems, forbidding such disclosure.

However, magistrate Patricia Trumbull granted Goodin’s motion requesting that the subpoena against him be quashed, ruling that there was “insufficient reason to conclude that the individual who supplied the information to Mr. Goodin was most likely someone who was bound by the terms of this court’s protective order not to disclose the information.”

Trumbull based her conclusion on information provided to the court showing that the contents of the e-mail at issue had been distributed to “numerous individuals” at Microsoft and the Department of Justice who were not subject to the protective order.

Microsoft served Goodin with a subpoena in October and demanded that he produce documents used to write two published stories in September. In those stories, Goodin cited internal Microsoft e-mail related to Sun Microsystems’ lawsuit before a federal district court in San Jose, which claimed breach of contract and unfair competition against Microsoft.

In December, Goodin asked the court to quash Microsoft’s subpoena, and Trumbull first considered Goodin’s request at a December 15 hearing.

After that hearing, Trumbull requested additional information regarding whether the e-mail Goodin used had been provided to the Department of Justice or the public during the investigation of the unfair competition claims. She directed Sun Microsystems to provide Microsoft with a list of all the individuals affiliated with Sun who possessed the same information as Goodin. (Sun Microsystems, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp.; Media Counsel: Kent Raygor, Los Angeles)