Press freedom case of NYT reporter James Risen may go to Supreme Court

"A federal appeals court will not reconsider a decision compelling a journalist to identify a source who disclosed details of a secret CIA operation," reports the AP:

The full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 13-1 Tuesday to reject reporter James Risen's petition for a rehearing. A divided three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled in July that prosecutors can require Risen to divulge the name of his source when he testifies at the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent charged with leaking classified information.

The appeals court's majority did not give any reason for denying Risen's petition. But Judge Roger Gregory, who voted for the rehearing, wrote that the case was "one of exceptional importance" dealing with a fundamental First Amendment question that has not been directly addressed by the Supreme Court or other federal appeals courts.

"My client remains as resolved as ever to continue fighting," said Risen's lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, in the New York Times.

Adam Martin in the New Yorker:

If prosecutors don't withdraw the subpoena— which Politico's Josh Gerstein points out they might do, thanks to Attorney General Eric Holder's new guidelines protecting journalists — then Risen's next step will be to bring his case to the Supreme Court and hope it decides to take up the issue of protecting journalists' sources.

Notable Replies

  1. Ygret says:

    From the AP story:

    "'An independent press is as indispensable to liberty as is an independent judiciary,' [The dissenting judge] wrote."

    The appeal was denied 13 to 1. I think the judge needs to worry as much or more about an independent judiciary than he does about an independent press. I'm not dissing him. He is clearly a man of principle, unlike his colleagues. But the federal judiciary has devolved into a massive collection of security state worshiping tools. And let's not even go into the state judges. Pam Martens did an excellent and eye-opening piece on the incredible corruption of the New York state judiciary recently:

  2. bwv812 says:

    Petitioning the Court for a writ of certiorari (i.e., asking the Supreme Court to hear your case) is far from indicative that the Court will grant it and actually hear the case:

    "Between 1989 and 2009, the Court averaged 7,500 cert petitions each term, yet it granted an average of only 93. Those figures translate into a "grant rate" of only 1.2 percent, down from about 7 percent from 1970 to 1988. Even if the typically unmeritorious in forma pauperis petitions are removed from the calculus, the success rate is not much better, rising only to about 3.7 percent."

Continue the discussion

2 more replies