Shield Laws

Senate Shield Bill Is Actually Pretty Broad

An amended bill passed Sept. 12 by the Senate Judiciary Committee to protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources in federal court includes a relatively broad definition of who would be covered by the law; a definition that would include most bloggers.

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In re Search of Email Account [Redacted]@gmail.com

Date: 

05/28/2010

Threat Type: 

Criminal Investigation

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

James Rosen (holder of email account [redacted]@gmail.com on computer servers operated by Google, Inc., headquartered at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA)

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

Case Number: 

10-291-M-01

Publication Medium: 

Website

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Description: 

James Rosen is a national news journalist for the Fox News Channel. On June 11, 2009, Rosen published an article on www.foxnews.com entitled "North Korea Intends to Match U.N. Resolution with New Nuclear Test." His Gmail email account is referenced in the case's court documents as "Redacted@gmail.com."

On May 28, 2010, Reginald B. Reyes, a Special Agent for the FBI filed an application for a search warrant for James Rosen's Gmail account, which was maintained by servers located at Google's headquarters in California. The search warrant application stated that the emails concealed information which, under Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(c), contained: (1) evidence of a crime; (2) contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed; and (3) property designed for use, intended for use, or used in committing a crime. The warrant application stated that the search was related to a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 793, which governs the "gathering, transmitting or losing defense information."

The search warrant application included an affidavit by Agent Reyes in support of the search warrant. Reyes' affidavit said the warrant was pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703 and 42 U.S.C. § 2000aa and permissible as the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has jurisdiction over the offense under investigation. Reyes states that he believes there is probable cause that Rosen violated Section 793(d) as an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator to Stephen Kim.

That same day, a search and seizure warrant was issued by a U.S. Magistrate Judge to be executed on or before June 11, 2010. The warrant granted the search of electronic e-mails and other electronic data of Rosen's account, and permitted the officer executing the warrant to delay notice to Rosen for 30 days under 18 U.S.C. § 2705. An attachment to the issued warrant stated that Google, Inc. was not permitted to notify "any other person, including the subscriber(s) of Redacted@gmail.com" of the warrant's existence. Google, Inc. was required to make exact duplicates of all information from the email account and send this information to Agent Reyes in overnight mail or facsimile. The attachment asked for any commuications between Rosen's account and 3 other accounts, including anothe Gmail account and two Yahoo! mail accounts; the usernames of all three accounts are also redacted in the public record. The warrant attachment referenced Rosen's connection to Stephen Kim, who was under investigation by the FBI for allegedly telling a reporter that North Korea may test a nuclear bomb.

On May 21, 2013, the government filed a motion to unseal entire docket of Rosen's case, including the application for the search warrant, the attachment to the warrant, Reyes' affidavit, and the granted warrant, with only names and dates of birth redacted for privacy reasons. 

On May 22, 2013, the court granted the government's motion in a memo and order that directed the case to be a matter of public record. The memo detailed clerical errors which stalled the placement of the redacted warrant and related materials into public record. The memo apologized for the administrative errors and instituted the inclusion of a new tab on the Court's website solely for the publication of search warrants. Executed warrants will be part of the public record unless a "separate sealing order is entered to redact all or portions" upon a showing by the government as required by United States v. Hubbard, 650 F.2d 293 (D.C. Cir. 1980) and Washington Post v. Robinson, 935 F.2d 282 (D.C. Cir. 1991).

In a separate order that same day, the court ordered that the Clerk place on the public docket a redacted version of the government's motion to unseal entire docket and that the government produce unredacted versions of all unsealed material to the defense in United States v. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim.

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As State Shield Laws Play Tug-of-War, the Dream of a Federal Shield Law Resurfaces

Shield LawA recent challenge to a subpoena for a New York reporter's confidential source highlights the risks journalists face when different state shield laws clash. Although uniform state shield laws would reduce uncertainty for reporters on the state court level, a solution to varying federal court tests may appear in the form of a federal shield law.

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Who is a Journalist? Here We Go Again…

In the wake of the Associated Press and James Rosen incidents, the call for statutory protection for journalists and their sources has started anew. The Obama administration has called on Sen.

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"Newsgathering in Massachusetts" Guide Now Available Online!

Amici Line Up In Appeal of "Blogger Not a Journalist" Ruling

A federal judge's ruling that a blogger was not covered by Oregon's reporters' shield law is being appealed to the Ninth Circuit, and is getting some amicus support from media organizations. But the appeal -- and the amici -- are not addressing the main issue that led to an online uproar over the trial judge's initial decision.

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Judge Explains His Decision on Blogger to the Chicken Littles

Federal Judge Marco A. Hernandez got a lot of attention and cyberchatter late last year when he held that blogger Crystal Cox was not protected by Oregon's reporters' shield law, leading to a $2.5 million defamation verdict against her. See Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox, No. CV-11-57-H (D. Or. Nov. 30, 2011).

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Appeals Court to Filmmaker: Turn Over Your Footage to Chevron

A federal appellate court has issued a swift ruling, in a high profile reporter's privilege case, that requires a filmmaker to surrender some of his unpublished footage to a powerful oil company.

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N.C. Judge Unmasks Pseudonymous Blog Commenters

A North Carolina trial court recently ordered the editor of the local community blog Home in Henderson to turn over the names and addresses of six pseudonymous commenters who allegedly defamed former Vance County commissioner Thomas S. Hester, Jr.

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Hester v. Does

Date: 

04/20/2010

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe 1, aka Beautiful Dreamer; John Doe 2, aka Confused; John Doe 3, aka Fatboy; John Does 4-20

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

North Carolina Superior Court, Vance County

Case Number: 

10-cvs-361

Publication Medium: 

Blog

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Status: 

Pending

Description: 

In April 2010, Thomas S. Hester, Jr., a former Vance County commissioner running for reelection, sued 20 John Does for defamation in North Carolina Superior Court over comments appearing on the Home in Henderson blog. The comments in question were attached to a blog post entitled "Arrest Made in Elder Abuse Case," which appeared on Home in Henderson eight months prior. According to Hester's complaint, the commenters used screen names like "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Fatboy" to make false statements suggesting that Hester was a slumlord and should be jailed.

Hester served a subpoena on Jason A. Feingold, editor of the blog, commanding him to appear for a deposition and to turn over identifying information for the commenters. Feingold and Home in Henderson filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that both the North Carolina shield law and the First Amendment protect the commenters' identifies from disclosure.

On June 28, 2010, Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr. found that the statements of six of the twenty commenters were actionable and enforced the subpoena as to these commenters. The court quashed the subpoena with respect to the remaining commenters. Three days later, Robert D. Gupton identified himself on a local radio show as "Point Keeper," one of the six commenters.

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Blog Post

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Hester v. Home in Henderson

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Date: 

04/08/2010

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Jason A. Feingold; Home in Henderson, Inc.

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

North Carolina Superior Court, Vance County

Case Number: 

10-cvs-361

Legal Counsel: 

C. Amanda Martin - Everett, Gaskins, Hancock & Stevens, LLP

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

On April 8, 2010, attorneys for former Vance County commissioner Thomas S. Hester, Jr. served a subpoena on Jason A. Feingold, editor of the Home in Henderson blog, commanding him to appear for a deposition and to turn over identifying information for 20 blog commenters. The comments in question were attached to Feingold's blog post entitled "Arrest Made in Elder Abuse Case," which appeared on Home in Henderson eight months prior. According to Hester's complaint, the commenters used screen names like "Beautiful Dreamer" and "Fatboy" to make false statements suggesting that Hester was a slumlord and should be jailed.

Feingold and Home in Henderson filed a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that both the North Carolina shield law and the First Amendment protect the commenters' identifies from disclosure.

On June 28, 2010, Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr. found that the statements of six of the twenty commenters were actionable and enforced the subpoena as to these commenters. The court quashed the subpoena with respect to the remaining commenters. Three days later, Robert D. Gupton identified himself on a local radio show as "Point Keeper," one of the six commenters.

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Blog Post

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Court Battle for Filmmaker's Footage Spurs National Debate on Reporter's Privilege

A filmmaker's fight against an oil company seeking his raw documentary footage has spurred a national debate on the reporter's privilege, pitting media organizations and filmmakers against powerful corporations and criminal defense attorneys.  At stake is the breadth of the protection given to unpublished newsgathering materials and, ultimately, the basic trust between journalists and their sources.

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New Hampshire Supreme Court Rules Website Covered By State Reporter's Privilege

This morning, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire handed down an important decision holding that a mortgage industry website, The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter, is entitled to protection under the state's reporter's privilege.

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