Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reporter ordered to give up their notes...

Well it was so ordered by federal district Judge James Zagel who is known for being the presiding judge over Ousted governor Rod Blagojevich's criminal trials for corruption:
During a brief hearing last week, U.S. District Judge James Zagel brought up the idea of compelling the Tribune to turn over its notes from a conversation with the juror before any of the lawyers in the case even raised the issue. The judge identified the juror in Monday's ruling as Candy Chiles.

The defense argues that the Chicago woman compromised the verdict by concealing her criminal history and potential bias during jury selection. In an effort to bolster their position, Cellini's lawyers sought access to notes of Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney from a brief interview with Chiles.

In his ruling issued late Monday, Zagel ordered that Sweeney "produce any and all notes, memoranda, tape recordings, documents, or other records, from Oct. 3, 2011, to present, of any conversations the journalist had with the juror" related to her previous criminal history or answers during jury selection.

Cellini's attorneys could not be reached Monday for comment.

The Tribune filed a motion Monday morning suggesting the subpoenas were a fishing expedition and saying Cellini's lawyers should instead question the juror, other jurors in the case, co-workers, neighbors, friends and family.

"Subpoenas to journalists should be a last resort in exceptional cases — not an automatic first step," the newspaper's lawyers wrote.
Tribune editor Gerould Kern offered his thoughts on this ruling:
Journalists must be free to ask questions and collect information secure in the knowledge that their notes will not be seized by the government or litigants in court and used for other purposes. Unfortunately, that security now is threatened by this ruling.

We believe that these subpoenas are unnecessary and in fact do harm to the independence of the reporting process. We are disappointed by Judge Zagel's ruling, and we now are considering our options.
I know that at times we don't care for the work of the journalists. We may believe them to be bias towards one point of view or another. Sometimes they may be unfair to the other side of a story.

That being said if we complain about journalism in this nation for exactly that, then how do we expect it to ever get better if judges are willing to force reporters to give up their notes. Should they chase down reporters chasing a story without interfering with the judicial process or should they chase down the person whom the story was about?

Hat-tip Capitol Fax!

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