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Minnesota declines to review decision forcing newspaper to disclose photos

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Minnesota declines to review decision forcing newspaper to disclose photos 03/22/1994 MINNESOTA -- The Minnesota Supreme Court in St. Paul…

MINNESOTA — The Minnesota Supreme Court in St. Paul refused in late February to hear an appeal by the Duluth News-Tribune of an order to disclose unpublished photographs of an accident scene.

The case arose from a multiple car accident on an icy Duluth road in December 1988. The News-Tribune sold reprints of two published photographs of the scene to a party to the subsequent civil litigation. The paper refused to sell its unpublished photographs.

The litigant subpoenaed the unpublished photographs. In June 1993 the state district court in Duluth ordered the paper to produce the photographs.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals in St. Paul affirmed the district court in mid-January. The court ruled that Minnesota’s shield law does not protect unpublished information that does not protect a source.

The appeals court noted that New York’s highest court has interpreted federal and state constitutional provisions to require a privilege for unpublished, non-confidential photographs. The court also noted that several federal circuit courts have extended the journalist’s privilege to non-confidential materials.

But the court did not reach the constitutional question, explaining that the parties chose not to raise constitutional arguments.

(Heaslip v. Freeman; Media Counsel: Joseph Roby Jr., Duluth)


The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.