Journalistic shielding

July 18, 2008
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Both of Indiana’s senators are pushing for passage of a federal shield law. Sen. Dick Lugar, a Republican, talked this week about making that happen soon and as recently as last week Senate leadership noted this may come up yet in July. Legislation out there, known as the Free Flow of Information Act (S. 2035) would create a reporter’s privilege at the federal level, bringing that U.S. law into line with statutes in most states.

Attorneys general in about 42 states signed a letter supporting the proposal, though Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter wasn’t one of them. He opted instead to do his own letter to Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a Democrat, urging the federal law’s passage, noting that his position is statutorily created and not constitutionally established and his authority doesn’t extend to what the federal legislation would encompass. Our AG notes that the proposed federal shield law “does not add to, or subtract from, the Indiana law.”

Hoosier State Press Association general counsel Stephen Key sees significant benefit for Indiana from the proposed federal shield law, though. The current state shield law can be found at Indiana Code 34-46-4; it protects news reporters from disclosing sources and giving them a means of safety in state courts. But Key notes that federal law doesn’t pony up that protection, and the 7th Circuit has gone as far as saying it won’t recognize state statutes that offer the journalistic shield.

Key says passing this legislation would give those within Indiana’s press “better piece of mind in promises of confidentiality to sources” that will hold up in court. All courts at federal and state levels. Timing remains a question, even though the Senate has vowed to move forward soon. President George W. Bush has apparently threatened to veto the legislation, but presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama have both pledged their support. We'll see what happens.
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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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