Posts in Shield Laws.
Posted in Shield Laws

The recent disclosure of reams of classified diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks has sparked outrage among leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington, outrage that may negatively impact the gathering and dissemination of the news.  There are already indications that Congress could take steps to sanction the publication of certain classified information, moving beyond the current regime in which the confidential source, if exposed, faces the greatest legal exposure.

The website WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange, and its purpose is to publish documents obtained from ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

On July 27, 2010, N.C. Superior Court Judge Calvin E. Murphy ruled from the bench that North Carolina’s shield law, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8-53.11, protects a newspaper from the compelled disclosure during judicial proceedings of the identities of anonymous commenters to the newspaper’s website. Judge Murphy signed the written order in the case on August 16, and it is available here. To our knowledge, this is the first case in which a North Carolina court has ruled that the state's shield law applies to the identities of anonymous website commenters, although other states have been ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

After weeks of debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee today amended and passed the proposed federal shield law on to the full Senate for consideration.  Even with this important step, it is unclear when the full Senate will vote on the measure or how quickly the Senate version can be reconciled with the House version.

In an important victory for the media, the Senate Judiciary bill reportedly adopts a broad definition of "journalist" -- one that, at this stage, includes bloggers and other journalists with non-traditional media organizations.  This aspect of the bill was the focus of ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated this week to take up compromise language on the Free Flow of Information Act of 2009 (S. 448), endorsed by Attorney General Eric Holder, which may finally result in passage of a federal shield law.

As we previously reported, federal shield bills were again introduced in Congress this year, after many years of frustrating defeats. Although a shield bill passed in the House, the bill unexpectedly hit a snag in the Senate. To the surprise of many observers, the Obama administration objected to the bill on the grounds that ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

As we reported last week, both chambers of the Texas legislature unanimously passed a shield law giving journalists qualified protection from disclosure of their sources and other confidential and non-confidential unpublished information collected as part of their newsgathering activities.  On Thursday, Governor Perry signed the Texas Free Flow of Information Act, H.B. 670, making it law in Texas.  The shield statute became effective immediately, and its enactment makes Texas the 37th state to pass some form of protection for journalists from state-court subpoenas.

Free press ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

Texas is on the cusp of parting company with the minority of jurisdictions that offer no statutory protection to journalists who receive subpoenas.  As we have discussed in a previous post, most states have enacted laws that create a least a qualified privilege for journalists from being compelled to disclose source information.  Some "shield" statutes, as they are often called, protect both confidential and non-confidential information, whereas others protect only confidential information or confidential sources.  Some give absolute protection from disclosure, others ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

After a number of years in which proposed federal shield statutes have stalled in Congress, news media interests are optimistic that this time will be the charm.  Last week bills were introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that would create a qualified privilege for journalists subject to federal subpoenas akin to the protections journalists currently have under many state shield statutes.

Dubbed the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2009," Senators Specter, Schumer, Lugar, and Graham introduced S. 448 last Friday.  The bill mirrors H.R. 985, which was also ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

The invaluable Media Law Resource Center recently released a report detailing state efforts to pass shield laws in the past three years.

According to the report, because of the high-profile contempt arrests of reporters James Taricani in 2004 and Judith Miller in 2005, legislative support for the reporter's privilege gained significant momentum.  As a result, five states -- Hawaii, Maine, Utah, Washington, and Connecticut -- passed shield statutes, bringing the total nationally to 36 states plus the District of Columbia.

Three other states, however, attempted to pass shield ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

The U.S. Supreme Court case of Branzburg v. Hayes offers reporters limited constitutional protection from subpoenas compelling the disclosure of confidential sources or other source material.  The limitations of Branzburg and the lack of a federal shield law to complement state statutes first came into public consciousness in 2004 with the well-publicized Valerie Plame case. The effort to compel testimony from various Washington reporters about their contacts with White House officials was just one in what some perceived as a marked increase in the number of subpoenas served on ... Read More 


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