Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Florida Court Quashes Subpoena in Reporter's Shield Case

A Florida court has granted a reporter's motion to quash a subpoena, based on the state's shield law, since the state had not made a showing sufficient to overcome the qualified privilege.

"According to Section 90.5015, Florida Statutes, a party seeking to overcome the professional journalist's qualified privilege “must make a clear and specific showing” of the following:

(a) The information is relevant and material to unresolved issues that have been raised in the proceeding for which the information is sought;
(b) The information cannot be obtained from alternative sources; and
(c) A compelling interest exists for requiring disclosure of the information. "
The court ruled that the state "made efforts to establish that the information sought could not be obtained from alternative sources. However, according to the Affidavit submitted to the Court, only current employees were questioned regarding their knowledge of the matter. These efforts do not appear to be sufficient to overcome the privilege....Even if the State's efforts in showing the information could not be obtained from an alternative source were sufficient, the State has not made a clear and specific showing that a compelling interest exists for requiring disclosure....The testimony of the reporter regarding the Defendant's statements to her could possibly be used for impeachment or rebuttal if the Defendant takes the stand and gives testimony that conflicts with the statements attributed to him in the article. However, the State has indicated it does not intend to use information for rebuttal or impeachment, but in its case-in-chief. The sought-after information is not a confession to the specific crimes at issue in this case....Considering the sufficiency of the evidence purportedly available for the State's case, the State cannot satisfy its burden in establishing a compelling interest for disclosure under Section 90.5015, Florida Statutes. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Motion to Quash Subpoena is granted."
The case is State v. Civic, No. 2006-CF-975, 36 Med. L. Rptr. 1223 (May 21, 2007).

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