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June 30, 2005

Breaking: Time Inc. to hand over documents in Novak-Plame-gate

Time Inc. has issued a press release indicating that it has decided to comply with the order of federal judge Thomas Hogan requiring it to turn over documents, presumably including reporter Matthew Cooper's notes, sought by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in Novak-Plame-gate.  I thought that might happen - interesting that it happened so quickly.  The next move, of course, is the really big one.  Assuming that the documents are promptly handed over to Fitzgerald, the judge might give Fitzgerald a chance to review them to see whether they give him what he needs instead of requiring the parties to file papers tomorrow (which is the current schedule).  And expect the lawyers for Judith Miller and (especially) Matthew Cooper to argue that the reporters' testimony is no longer needed in light of Time's decision to hand over the documents.

Here is the key passage of the press release:

Time Inc. shall deliver the subpoenaed records to the Special Counsel in accordance with its duties under the law. The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.

We believe that our decision to provide the Special Prosecutor with the subpoenaed records obviates the need for Matt Cooper to testify and certainly removes any justification for incarceration.

"The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it."  Well, none of us except Judy Miller.  She, alone amongst American citizens, apparently gets to defy court orders.  Please - get over yourself, Judy.

That said, let's hope that the notes give Fitzgerald what he needs.  Reporters in jail don't do anyone any good, and if the notes tell Fitzgerald what he needs to know, maybe this drama can finally be brought to its conclusion.

Posted by David at 10:03 AM in Law and Lawyers, National | Permalink

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Comments

David, I appreciated your post back in November outlining the competing goals in this case of a free press and prosecutors' ability to fight crime. It seemed that you were drawing an analogy between freedom of the press and freedom of speech in that neither is absolute, and that sometimes both might need to yield to other rights and public interests.

After reading the UC Berkely News article you linked to, I have to ask are you being too harsh on Judy Miller on this particular point? I don't think she gets to defy a court order for free. Doesn't every American have the right to refuse a court order if they are willing to bear the consequences? I remember a NY Times reporter going to jail, and the Times paying some stiff fines back in the late seventies because they refused to reveal the identity of a source.

If the reporter believes that there is a principle of press freedom here that outweighs other considerations - in other words that the court has struck the wrong balance - then she has one last avenue of protest. Isn't this civil disobedience, something that has a rich tradition in our country?

Posted by: Peter Dolan | Jul 1, 2005 6:20:20 AM

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