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Minnesota court overturns subpoena

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
An appeals court in Minnesota held on Monday that a reporter did not have to turn over his unpublished notes…

An appeals court in Minnesota held on Monday that a reporter did not have to turn over his unpublished notes from an interview with a man who killed two police officers and took his own life after a standoff one year ago.

The trial court judge initially ordered Mankato Free Press reporter Dan Nienaber, one of the last people to speak with Jeff Skjervold, to provide his notes to county prosecutors investigating the incident.   The prosecutors argued that the notes easily satisfied the third prong of the state’s statutory shield law, which allows such disclosures only when necessary to prevent an injustice.

The court of appeals, however, held that the law demands far more particularized findings to justify the disclosure. In a decision that allows the statute to maintain its teeth, the court dismissed the county attorney’s assertion that he needed the notes to find an injustice, instead finding that the statute demands that a subpoena must connect the discovery to a particular injustice.