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U.S. appeals court denies Chicago reporters' request for rehearing

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         SEVENTH CIRCUIT         Confidentiality/Privilege    

U.S. appeals court denies Chicago reporters’ request for rehearing

  • The Seventh Circuit let stand a panel decision that questions the idea of a federal reporter’s privilege.

Oct. 20, 2003 — The full U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago (7th Cir.) refused last week to rehear a case in which the notion of a federal reporter’s privilege was dismissed.

The Oct. 14 order denying the petition of three Chicago reporters lets stand the Aug. 8 panel opinion, written by Judge Richard A. Posner, as damaging precedent to the reporter’s privilege in the Seventh Circuit, which includes Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

In McKevitt v. Pallasch, Posner dismissed the idea of a federal reporter’s privilege in cases involving non-confidential sources, and questioned the idea of a privilege in federal court even when confidential sources are involved.

Abdon Pallasch and Robert C. Herguth, of the Chicago Sun-Times, and Flynn McRoberts, of the Chicago Tribune, were ordered by a district court to give up tapes of conversations they had with FBI mole David Rupert for a book the three were planning to write. The book was to be based on the experiences of Rupert, who served as a spy in the Irish terrorist group, the Real IRA.

The tapes were subpoenaed by lawyers for accused terrorist leader Micheal McKevitt for use in cross-examining Rupert during McKevitt’s trial in Ireland. On July 4, the reporters were forced to turn the tapes over to the FBI for screening before they could be given to McKevitt’s lawyers.

Pallasch said he is greatly disappointed the full appellate court refused last week to take up the case, and that he and his colleagues won’t likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

“We would rather have this be the law in three states as opposed to all 50,” Pallasch said.

(McKevitt v. Pallasch; Counsel for Abdon M. Pallasch and Flynn McRoberts, Kathleen L. Roach, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP, Chicago; Counsel for Robert C. Herguth, Damon E. Dunn, Funkhouser Vegosen Liebman & Dunn Ltd., Chicago) KM

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