Objectives To define contempt of court To define reporter’s privilege To define shield laws
Intertwined Legal Issues Vs Reporter’s rights to keep sources and unpublished materials confidential Court’s right to require disclosure of relevant information
Contempt of court Judge should be able to control courtroom and punish those who interfere with orderly process Two kinds: –Direct contempt: disobeying judge’s order or misconduct in courtroom –Indirect contempt: disrespectful out of courtroom (like publishing something bad about judge or justice system) Criminal vs. civil contempt: criminal = punishment; civil = coercion (sit in jail until agree to obey court order)
Indirect contempt: not much Bridges v. California (1941): stripped judges of wanton indirect contempt power –Bridges sent telegram threatening strike of longshoremen if unfavorable court ruling not overturned; LA Times published several editorials critical of judges—both cited –Court overturned both citations and said that no contempt for public statements unless publication created CPD to administration of justice Direct contempt: more problematic
What is journalist’s privilege? Evidentiary privilege: respects confidentiality of relationship by letting those with privilege refuse to testify –Common: physician/patient, attorney/client, priest/penitent Reporters’ rights to protect confidential sources: limited right –Why? To keep sources “live” and willing to talk in sensitive situations –Recognized in many states Common law and statutes (“shield laws”)
Three levels... 1. Withholding names/IDs of confidential sources––source requested and reporter promised confidentiality 2. Withholding materials––tapes, notes, etc. –Not confidential, but not made public 3. When journalist is eyewitness to event –Least strong privilege
Privilege in criminal cases Criminal defendant has big 6A right to fair trial; thus rights need to be carefully balanced Sometimes prosecution rather than defense seeks information, arguing that society has compelling interest in deterring and punishing crime
Group 1: U.S. Supreme Court Justices What has been the highest court’s stand on shield laws? According to the high court, is the First Amendment a shield?
A First Amendment right? Before 1972: no special privilege between journalists and sources; few shield laws Then Branzburg: Three cases on appeal from three reporters who had claimed privilege –Paul Branzburg, reporter for Louisville Courier– Journal, watched marijuana being made into hash with promise of confidentiality –Paul Pappas, Massachusetts TV reporter, and Earl Caldwell, NYT reporter in SF, had relationships with Black Panthers, a militant group –All three had been called by grand juries and refused to answer questions
Branzburg v. Hayes (1972) Weird case with 4-1-4 vote (Powell narrowly concurred) –Why? Majority opinion is less important than dissent is! Majority opinion held no 1A constitutional privilege for reporters But dissent by Justice Potter Stewart set up structure for privilege
Stewart’s dissent: major test In subpoenaing journalists, government has burden of proof, and it must demonstrate: –1. Journalist has information critical to decision in case––no “fishing expeditions” –2. No reasonable alternative sources to obtain information––no sources less destructive of 1A rights –3. Compelling and overriding public or personal interest in disclosure of information––essential to case to have that particular information 1A
Aftermath of Branzburg Courts construe majority opinion narrowly and often apply Stewart’s test Many state shield laws adapt test Effect: majority opinion virtually gone and dissent is what matters!
Group 2: Journalists What protections do journalists want? How far do you think they should go to protect those rights? What tips would you give reporters on promising confidentiality?
Group 3: California Supreme Court Justices What has been the attitude of the judges in general regarding shield laws? What have been some of the state court rulings justices regarding protection for journalists?
Shield laws 30 states have (CA) Vary widely from state to state; many adopt Stewart’s test in Branzburg—some stronger than others CA law part of CA constitution
CA shield law Provides legal protections to journalists seeking to keep confidentiality of unnamed source or unpublished info obtained during newsgathering Protects “publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service” and a “radio or television news reporter or other person connected with or employed by a radio or television station” –Also likely applies to stringers, freelancers, and perhaps authors
CA shield law Info protected –Source of any information, even without assurance/ expectation of confidentiality –Unpublished information –Specific information obtained during newsgathering but not disclosed to public –“All notes, outlines, photographs, tapes or other data of whatever sort” –Newsgatherer’s eyewitness observations in public place
CA shield law Applies even if published info based upon or related to unpublished info Protects only info obtained during newsgathering Only protects journalist from being adjudged in contempt by judicial, legislative or administrative body, or any other body with power to issue subpoenas, for failure to comply with subpoena –Does not protect journalist from other legal sanctions –Generally does not apply when journalist or news organization is party to lawsuit and other sanctions are available
Exceptions to shield laws Three major exceptions: –1. Use of balancing test that party seeking disclosure must meet to overcome the privilege; most states use Stewart’s three– part test –2. Exception for entire classes of court cases, libel most typically (fear of fabricated sources in defense) –3. Eyewitness testimony––if journalists have seen an event, compelled to testify
Group 4: News Sources What protections do news sources want? What decisions have been ruled by the courts for those who have sued?
Lawsuits by sources Cohen v. Cowles Media (1991): editors of Star Tribune and Pioneer Press ignored reporters’ promises of confidentiality given to Dan Cohen and published name in connection with info about IR lt. gov. candidate –Cohen lost job, sued; said reporters’ promise an enforceable contract –MN Supreme Court said enforcement of contract law would violate 1A Court overturned on promissory estoppel: promise must be enforced when someone has relied upon it— law of general application
Group 5: The Public of California What did California voters have to say about shield laws?
Article 1, Section 2(b) of the State Constitution Gives journalists a right to refuse to reveal the identities of their sources as well as unpublished information, photographs and film or video outtakes. Forbids judges to cite journalists for contempt of court if they refuse to reveal this sourt of confidential information.
Group 6: The Congress What efforts and successes has the U.S. Congress had in the area of shield laws? What success has it had in limiting newsroom searches?
Newsroom searches Zurcher v. Stanford Daily (1978): Court said newsroom searches did not violate 1A –Daily published articles/photographs of demonstration where several police officers were assaulted—DA got warrant, searched for more info –Huge rise in newsroom searches!
Result: Privacy Protection Act of 1980, overruled Zurcher Outlawed most newsroom searches Officials cannot conduct searches and seizures involving “documentary materials” –Search OK only when probable cause to believe that individual involved in crime, to prevent imminent death, reason to believe that subpoena would mean destruction of materials, or materials not produced as result of court order overturned on appeal Also controls searches for “work products” (unpublished stuff) Subpoena for search, not warrant (appealable, challengeable)
Conclusion: Newsgatherer’s privilege 1A privilege is seldom granted when journalists are subpoenaed to testify before grand juries. There is no federal shield law; however, several courts have recognized a privilege for reporters under federal rules of procedure adopted by Congress for federal courts. 1A does not protect journalists who reveal names of sources promised confidentiality.