Recently in Journalist Subpoenas and Shield Laws Category

Federal shield bills have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would limit the federal government’s power to subpoena journalists. News organizations and press freedom advocates are optimistic about the chances that a shield bill creating a privilege will become law.

A federal magistrate judge in Nevada held that “the plain language” of the state’s reporter shield law confers an “absolute privilege,” protecting a reporter from disclosing sources and other newsgathering information in a Jan. 30, 2009 ruling.

The battle over confidential sources between former Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino and Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter shifted from First Amendment freedoms to Fifth Amendment protections after Ashenfelter refused to answer questions at a Dec. 31, 2008 deposition, citing the right against compelled self-incrimination.

Texas Enacts Shield Law

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a journalist’s shield bill into law on May 13, 2009, making Texas the 36th state, as well as the District of Columbia, to adopt a statutory testimonial privilege for reporters.

A U.S. District Court Judge in Michigan ruled April 21, 2009 that Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter could refuse to answer questions about confidential sources based on the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self incrimination.

A California judge ruled on July 15, 2009 that a student photojournalist who witnessed a murder on a San Francisco street is covered by California's reporter shield law and does not have to turn his photos over to police.

Blogger Cannot Claim New Jersey Shield Law

In a case of first impression, a New Jersey trial court judge ruled June 30, 2009 that a blogger and online commenter who was sued for defamation could not claim the state's journalist shield law to protect the confidential sources she used as a basis for publishing allegedly defamatory statements about a corporation.

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