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Starr drops demand for Hubbell book notes

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials
Starr drops demand for Hubbell book notes 09/22/97

Starr drops demand for Hubbell book notes


NEW YORK–William Morrow & Company, the publisher of a forthcoming book by former associate attorney general and Clinton confidante Webster Hubbell, will not be required to turn Hubbell’s unfinished manuscript in response to a subpoena issued by Whitewater independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr. After discussion with the publisher’s attorneys, Starr’s office agreed in late August to narrow the scope of the subpoena, limiting it to the financial aspects of the book deal.

After receiving the subpoena on August 13, attorneys for Morrow filed a motion in federal District Court in New York City asking the court to quash it.

In support of the motion, Morrow argued that the demand for editorial material was covered by a qualified privilege under the First Amendment, protecting it against forced disclosure. Because the prosecutor’s office failed to show that the information sought in the manuscript was essential to its investigation and unavailable from other sources, Morrow contended, the subpoena should not be enforced. In addition, the publisher asked the court to consider the prosecutor’s alleged failure to follow Justice Department guidelines concerning subpoenas against the news media.

On August 27, Judge Denny Chin postponed a hearing on the motion, ordering the prosecutor’s office to file a response explaining why it needed access to Hubbell’s unfinished manuscript. Later that evening, in a phone conversation between the parties, the prosecutor agreed to narrow the subpoena, excluding the editorial content of the book itself. In return, Morrow agreed to turn over requested financial records. The issue of whether or not Hubbell had the right to assert a privilege against disclosure was not resolved.

The subpoena represented the latest in a series of efforts by the independent prosecutor to get a “sneak peek” at “Friends in High Places,” the book Hubbell began writing while in prison for mail fraud and tax evasion. Previously, Starr’s office obtained a copy of Hubbell’s first attempt to write the book from his first publisher, HarperCollins, which decided not to publish the book after Hubbell was unable to complete it prior to the 1996 presidential election. Starr also obtained copies of correspondence between Hubbell and his agent. (William Morrow & Company, Inc. v. Office of the Independent Counsel; Media Counsel: Victor Kovner, New York City)