ASNE signs on to five amicus briefs, one set of comments
Overshadowed by the exciting news that S 987, the Free Flow of Information Act, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12 is the fact that ASNE signed on to five amicus briefs in various federal court cases and one set of comments filed with the Department of Health and Human Services in the past two weeks. Read more to see a quick description of each brief.
Overshadowed by the exciting news that S 987, the Free Flow of Information Act, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12 is the fact that ASNE signed on to five amicus briefs in various federal court cases and one set of comments filed with the Department of Health and Human Services in the past two weeks. Here's a quick description of each:
Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation v. Hoeper: ASNE joined 15 media companies and organizations on an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, which is being asked to overturn a Colorado Supreme Court decision that did not require that the statements at issue be false in order to determine that the speaker acted with actual malice. Our brief argues that the actual malice standard is deliberately demanding; therefore, it requires both proof of falsity and the required mindset on the part of the speaker or writer before defamation liability can occur.
In Re Holmes v. Winter: ASNE once again threw its support behind Fox News reporter Jana Winter as she moves to quash a subpoena issued by a Colorado court seeking information from Winter to identify two unnamed law enforcement officers. She quoted the officers as having said that James Holmes, who is accused of the Colorado theater shooting, mailed a notebook -- full of details about how Holmes was going to kill people -- to a University of Colorado psychiatrist before the attack. We were one of 38 media companies and organizations that asked the New York Court of Appeals (the highest court in that state) to quash the subpoena issued from Colorado because New York courts have always employed a rather high standard for requiring a reporter to testify under its reporters' privilege.
Johnson v. New York: At issue here is whether a courtroom can be closed entirely just because an undercover police officer is about to testify. That's what a New York trial court did without employing any of the usual pre-closure procedures to determine the need for and extent of the closure. Our brief, filed with 26 other media organizations and companies, didn't argue that undercover officers must always testify in open court, but it did ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision from the New York Court of Appeals that allowed closure to occur without any prior hearing.
ACLU v. Clapper: ASNE and 18 other media organizations and courts are supporting the ACLU's request that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issue a preliminary injunction preventing the National Security Agency from continuing in the widespread collection of telephone toll records. Our brief offers the court a view on the specific impact the NSA's information collection program has on news media. It discusses many important stories in which reporters relied on confidential sources to reveal government overreach or corruption.
Leigh v. Jewell: This one involves access to wild horse roundups (yes, you read that right) conducted by the Bureau of Land Management. This is the latest round in a longstanding fight for access by reporters and members of the public to viewing areas where they can actually see wild horses being rounded up and put into holding pens by the federal government. Access is being limited, in part, under the supposed need to protect the safety of the prospective observers. Our brief, filed with 14 other media companies and organizations, asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to recognize that reporters don't need to be protected and argues for full access to the proceedings.
Department of Health and Human Services Proposed Rules on Access to Physician Billing Data: ASNE joined 21 other media companies and organizations on comments drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which weighed in on questions posed by HHS regarding the extent of any privacy interest held by physicians who are part of the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. We are arguing for full access to this information as a means of rooting out fraud and corruption in the billing process.
Please feel free to contact ASNE Legal Counsel Kevin M. Goldberg at
703-812-0462 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you want more information on any of these cases or if, in the future, you need ASNE's support in protecting your First Amendment rights to right to access government information.