The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, joined by 46 media organizations, has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City (2nd Cir.) seeking to affirm the quashing of a subpoena for the testimony of a Wall Street Journal reporter in a financial malfeasance lawsuit.
“The sheer number of media outlets, trade groups and other organizations that realize the damage this kind of subpoena can do to a free press speaks to just how important it is that this reporter not be compelled to testify,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “The chilling effect on journalism, the financial and personnel burdens on already overtaxed newsrooms, and the overall damage to a vibrant, independent and robust press must compel the court to dismiss what is essentially an attempt by the plaintiffs to have the Wall Street Journal conduct their subpoena.” New York’s reporters privilege statute applies to this subpoena even though the case is being tried in federal court.
Wall Street Journal reporter Jesse Eisinger was subpoenaed by lawyers for a Massachusetts couple suing Goldman Sachs for advising them in a financial partnership with a technology company that ultimately imploded under its own financial fraud problems. The couple is charging Goldman with breach of fiduciary duty for not adequately researching the technology company’s finances.
The subpoena is needed, according to the plaintiffs, to show how Eisinger was able to uncover information about the tech company and that Goldman could have, and they contend should have, done similar investigating. The trial judge disagreed, and noted that she doubted Eisinger’s testimony would even be relevant.
The media brief in Baker v. Goldman Sachs & Co. argues that, “Subpoenas, whether they seek journalists’ confidential sources, non-confidential material or verification of published statements, threaten the neutrality and independence of the news media, casting them as agents of discovery in lawsuits that do not involve <span data-scayt_word="public." "="" data-scaytid="4">public.”
The Reporters Committee brief, which includes a complete list of the 46 media organizations joining it, is posted on the Reporters Committee website.
Founded in 1970 to combat an increase in subpoenas seeking reporters' confidential sources, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press now offers a broad variety of legal services to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail.
In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee sets up special event reporters' hotlines, submits amicus briefs and statements of support on media law issues, and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists year-round. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.