In a case that has important implications for journalists, a reporter for a Mexican newspaper will go to federal court on Friday to fight a broad, sweeping subpoena that seeks her testimony and all documents she used in writing stories about a federal drug investigation involving a Texas bank.
Attorneys for Dolia Estevez, the Washington, D.C., correspondent for El Financiero newspaper, will argue before a U.S. District Court judge that the First Amendment protects her against compelled disclosure of information obtained during newsgathering.
The hearing will be at 10 a.m. Friday in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, Va.
Estevez and at least two other journalists have been subpoenaed in a Texas bank’s lawsuit against an Ohio man.
Laredo National Bank is suing Donald Schulz, chairman of the political science department at Cleveland State University, and other unnamed defendants for allegedly infiltrating a federal drug investigation called “Operation White Tiger.”
The bank’s lawsuit accuses Schulz of planting lies in an unofficial government document that links the bank and its Mexican owners to drug trafficking. The bank is accusing Schulz of distributing the tainted report to journalists, including Estevez. The lawsuit says government officials later disavowed the report.
In a disturbing twist, the bank has threatened to add Estevez as a defendant. In court documents, the bank accuses her of possibly distributing the report to other journalists.
“The only reason for the subpoenas served on these journalists is to intimidate them from writing about drug trafficking,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “Journalists must have the ability to report independently on issues that are of such grave public concern.”
The bank’s subpoena to Estevez seeks 23 items of information, including all documents, correspondence and e-mails she exchanged with her sources. The bank also wants to know whether she and other reporters who wrote about the drug investigation provided documents to each other while they were writing their stories.
Besides Estevez, other journalists whom the bank has subpoenaed include Jamie Dettmer, senior editor of Insight, the weekly magazine of The Washington Times; and Christopher Whalen, an investment banker and freelance writer. They have objected to the subpoenas, but have not yet filed their objections in court.