April 1, 2006
Smithsonian Deal With Showtime Upsets Some Filmmakers
The newly created Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture between the Smithsonian and Showtime, has upset some documentary filmmakers, who say that it seriously limits their ability to offer the work they base on Smithsonian materials to media other than the new network, should that network choose to air the films. In its defense, the museum administration said it thought it should recoup some advantage from filmmaker use of its collections. Details of the contract between the Smithsonian and Showtime are not publicly available. Read more here in an article by the New York Times' Edward Wyatt. Congress is currently considering the Smithsonian's budget, and Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.) suggested that the museum begin charging admission.
March 31, 2006
Senate Committee Passes Bill Allowing Televising of Supreme Court Proceedings
The Senate Judiciary Committee has passed and sent on a bill (S. 1768), sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter, that would allow the "televising of Supreme Court proceedings...unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of 1 or more of the parties before the Court.". An identical bill is before the House Judiciary Committee. An accompanying measure, which Senator Charles Grassley sponsored, would allow cameras in the district and appellate courts. It also passed out of committee. Read more here.
March 30, 2006
Borders, Waldenbooks Say They Will Not Carry Next Issue of "Free Inquiry"
Borders and Waldenbooks have decided not to carry the April/May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it will include some of the cartoons that a Danish newspaper published of the Prophet Mohammed last year. According to spokesperson Beth Bingham, Borders is concerned that the issue might implicate the "safety and security" of Borders and Waldenbooks customers. Free Inquiry magazine editor Paul Kurtz responded that the Borders corporate decision "undermines" the First Amendment. Read more here.
March 28, 2006
Idaho Supreme Court Rules That Senate, House May Close Legislative Committee Meetings to the Public
The Idaho Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court decision that the Senate and House may close legislative committee meetings to the public. The Idaho Press Club had requested a declaratory judgment that closing such meetings violated Article III, section 12 of the Idaho Constitution.
"The Press Club contends that the phrase "business of each house" should be construed to include legislative committees. It argues that because each house utilizes legislative committees in order to function, the work of such committees is included in the phrase "business of each house." There are three problems with this argument.
"First, both houses also utilize the committee of the whole as part of the legislative process. If the "business" of each house was intended to include the work of all committees, then it would also include the committee of the whole, which is a committee. If the word "business" included the work of all committees, then there would have been no reason to expressly include the committee of the whole within the provisions of Article III, [section] 12. The reference to the committee of the whole would be mere surplusage. We should avoid an interpretation which would render terms of a constitution mere surplusage....
"Second, adopting the Press Club's definition of "business" would create an inconsistency. Article III, [section] 10 states, "A majority of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business." If legislative committees are included within the "business" of each house, then a majority of each house would have to be present at each meeting of a legislative committee because such committee meetings would constitute doing the business of the house. Nobody contends that a majority of the members of each house are required to be present at meetings of legislative committees....
"Third, the argument is contrary to the history surrounding the adoption of Article III, [section] 12. The version originally approved...permitted secret legislative sessions to enact legislation....Throughout the debate concerning Article III, [section] 12, there was no discussion regarding whether legislative committee meetings should be open or closed to the public. The delegates quoted were arguing against permitting secret sessions of the legislature, not against closing meetings of legislative committees. To apply their arguments to an issue they were not even addressing is simply putting words in their mouths....
"...[A]t the time of the Idaho Constitutional Convention, legislative committee meetings were typically closed to the public. There is no reason to believe that the delegates were unaware of that fact. Had they intended to prohibt the legislature from closing all such committee meetings, one of the delegates would certainly have mentioned that issue....
"The Press Club and amicus curiae also present various policy arguments as to why legislative committee meetings should always be open. We cannot use policy arguments to give a constitutional provision a meaning that is not consistent with its wording...."
"Finally, amicus curiae argue that Article I, [section 10], of the Constitution requires that legislative committee meetings be open. They rely on the provision stating, "THe people have the right...to instruct their representatives...." According to amicus curiae, the right to instruct representatives must include the right to attend legislative committee meetings....Article I, [section] 10, does not specify the manner in which the people have the right to instruct their representatives. It does not, by its terms, purport to require that legislative committee meetings be open. Even if we were to conclude that its provisions conflicted with those of Article III, [section 12], the latter, being specific, would prevail."
Read the entire opinion here.
U. S. District Court Modifies Subpoena in Philadelphia Inquirer Reporter Case
In In re Subpoena Directed to Andrew Maykuth, parties to the action Bowoto v. Chevron Texaco Corp., No. 99-2506, attempted to compel the deposition of Andrew Maykuth, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, who had written about the Bowoto situation. Maykuth attempted to quash the subpoena, arguing that it violated "his rights under the reporter's privilege: and ...[was] overly broad and unduly burdensome." While refusing the request, Judge O'Neill, U. S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, engaged in the following analysis and limited Maykuth's testimony as follows.
"With respect to the reporter's privilege, Maykuth argues that Chevron's arguments...do not meet the three part test enunciated by the Court of Appeals in Riley v. City of Chester...The analysis of these three criteria is made on a case by case basis...Chevron attempted to verify the statements made in the article by deposing plaintiffs, but [they] repeatedly denied making such statements...Chevron cannot verify that plaintiffs made these statements through any source others than Maykuth because he appears to be the only person to whom plaintiffs allegedly made these statements....The article itself, although self authenticating for purposes of admitting the evidence...is not sufficient to verify or prove false the statements recounted by Maykuth....Chevron also satisfies the third criterion: Maykuth's verification evidence is relevant, material, and "crucial" to Chevron's defense because the truth of these statements and whether they were actually said go directly to the heart of Bowoto action....Chevron's need for this information goes beyond a desire to impeach the testimony of these two plaintiffs; this information strikes at the very heart of plaintiffs' case....However, I agree with Maykuth that the breadth of plaintiffs' cross examination questions, Chevron's redirect, and plaintiffs' recross is overbroad and should be limited to verifying whether plaintiffs made the quoted statements...."
Read the entire memorandum and order here.
March 27, 2006
Supreme Court Denies Cert in Hatfill Lawsuit
The Supreme Court has denied cert in bioterrorism expert Steven Hatfill's defamation lawsuit against the New York Times. The 4th Circuit had reversed a lower court's dismissal in favor of the Times. Read more here.
New Blogger, Old News
The Washington Post's new blogger, Ben Domenech, has departed after only three days on the job. The Guardian reports that the new recruit was caught at plagiarism in previous work. Read more here. Read Post editor Jim Brady's note on the subject here (registration may be required--free).