Shield Law? What Shield Law? Police Just Get Reporter's Phone Records

from the how-about-that... dept

While there are still debates over proposals for a federal shield law to protect journalists from having to reveal sources, California already has a shield law for journalists, but what good does it do if authorities totally ignore it. It seems that may have happened in the case of TMZ’s Harvey Levin and the Los Angeles County Sheriff obtaining Levin’s phone records in trying to track down who leaked information about actor Mel Gibson’s arrest. Levin is pointing out that this does, in fact, appear to violate both state and federal law and is apparently working with lawyers over this. While the Sheriff’s department says it spoke with a prosecutor and got a judge’s approval to get the records, it’s difficult to see how that fits with California’s shield law.

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Comments on “Shield Law? What Shield Law? Police Just Get Reporter's Phone Records”

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Anonymous Coward says:

As I recall....

Doesn’t the shield law just prevent the police from forcing a reporter to reveal a source? It does nothing to prevent a reporter from revealing the source themselves on accident or purpose through easily obtained records outside their control. Otherwise reporters will end up as a protected class of people which cannot be investigated for any wrongdoings like murder, etc…since their phone records are protected, their homes may contain files…

Sounds tough to balance between protection and reality to me.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: As I recall....

Only problem with that is that you must have committed, or the police must have reason to believe you committed a crime in order for a search of your private information to be “warranted”.

Otherwise, it’s just big brother looking up your records without due process.

If the police in this case did get a warrant, then I’d like to know what judge signed the warrant, basically saying that there was reasonable cause to deprive this American citizen of his privacy based on the fact that the cops simply wanted to know.

Tor (profile) says:

In my country (Sweden) the shield law protects not only the journalist and his right to keep his sources secret but actually makes it criminal for someone to research the sources of a journalist. The slightest hint of even trying to find out and it would be all over the newspapers as a scandal.

Sadly though bloggers have much worse protection, but I guess that’s a common theme today.

Sharur (profile) says:

As I recall....

The reporting of the information is legal, but the leaking of the information to reporter may be illegal.

So they may not have to lie to the judge, as they are persuing a legimite investigation into a legitamite crime.

Whether the leaking of this information SHOULD be illegal is another question entirely, but that rests upon the legislature and/or the people, rather than the policy and the judiciary.

The former groups get to decide what the law is, the latter are to enforce and apply it.

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