Former USA Today reporter Toni Locy urged the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on Thursday not to throw out her case seeking a reporter’s privilege to keep her sources confidential.
Locy became embroiled in the legal battle after reporting about Steven Hatfill, the former Army scientist who was investigated in the 2001 anthrax attacks but whose name has since been cleared. When Locy refused to give up her confidential sources in Hatfill’s ensuing Privacy Act suit against the government, the U.S. District Court in D.C. held her in contempt. She appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals.
Though Hatfill settled his underlying case with the government this summer for $5.8 million, Locy’s appeal of the contempt order has still been pending.
Last week, Hatfill filed a motion to dismiss Locy’s appeal, arguing that there’s no need to decide her case now because he has settled his case and Locy’s sources are no longer sought. Locy responded Thursday, asking the judges to keep her case on the docket.
In the court papers, Locy’s attorneys argued that even with Hatfill’s settlement, Locy’s dispute over whether she has a privilege to keep her sources confidential still needs to be decided.
Hatfill told the court in his filing last week that once the case was dismissed he would seek attorney’s fees from Locy. That Hatfill will continue to pursue Locy in litigation over fees is one reason Locy’s case is still alive and should be decided, her attorneys argued.
“A significant financial dispute persists between Hatfill and Locy, despite Hatfill’s settlement with the government,” the attorneys wrote in Locy’s motion. “The propriety of Locy’s assertion of privilege should be determined by this court on appeal.”
Locy’s attorneys also responded to Hatfill’s argument that Locy has not been harmed by the contempt order because she hasn’t yet had to pay any of the daily contempt fines the district judge slapped her with.
“The sanction by the District Court can easily be perceived as a condemnation of Locy by a federal court, which carries with it the potential adversely to affect Locy’s life and career,” the attorneys wrote in her court papers.
Lastly, Locy argued that if the Court of Appeals does dismiss her case, it must vacate the contempt order.