Hypocrite Grifters Project Veritas Scream About Press Freedom, Then Run To Court To Silence The NY Times
from the not-how-it-works dept
So, just yesterday we wrote about how the FBI’s raid of Project Veritas’s founder and a few associates was concerning from a press freedom standpoint — and that you should be concerned even if you believe that Project Veritas are a bunch of dishonest grifters. However, beyond being a bunch of dishonest grifters — who still deserve press freedoms — it appears that Project Veritas are also a giant bunch of hypocrites.
All week they’ve been grandstanding about press freedoms… while at the same time they hired the law firm of Clare Locke — a firm that brags about silencing the press — to try to silence the NY Times. Incredibly, so far it has worked. Project Veritas and Clare Locke successfully got a judge in NY to issue a ridiculously broad order requiring that the NY Times delete information it had in its possession and then stop reporting on certain aspects of Project Veritas’ behavior.
This is straight up prior restraint.
ORDERED that, until such time as this Court resolves the order to show cause, defendant The New York Times shall immediately sequester, protect, and refrain from further disseminating or publishing any of plaintiff Project Veritas? privileged materials in the possession of The New York Times, or its counsel, and that The New York Times and its counsel shall cease further efforts to solicit or acquire plaintiff Project Veritas? attorney-client privileged materials.
The prohibition on distributing materials is concerning enough, but the demand that they “cease further efforts to solicit or acquire” material about Project Veritas is literally banning reporting. That’s clearly a 1st Amendment violation. Basically every lawyer that Law & Crime spoke to notes that this is blatant prior restraint.
Libby Locke from Clare Locke (who once insisted to me that anti-SLAPP laws harmed people) put out a statement that misrepresents the law to the point of being laughable:
?A prior restraint is just that?a restraint before publication. Here, The Times already published Veritas? attorney-client privileged communications, and the interim order and more permanent relief sought are narrowly tailored to that misconduct,? Locke told Law&Crime in an email. ?Moreover, even if this were a prior restraint (it is not), there are certain circumstances where the law permits a court to enjoin the publication of materials before it happens?including, for example, by a protective order in litigation between litigants to prevent the use and dissemination of attorney-client protected materials. And this is no greater restraint on speech than the myriad protective orders the Times has been subject to in other litigation proceedings.?
This statement is stunning in its own way. First, it is wrong about prior restraint (and misstates the full extent of the order). Again, Law & Crime spoke to a lawyer who knows better:
Former federal prosecutor Mitch Epner, who has consulted with media organizations on First Amendment and copyright issues and is now of counsel with Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC, told Law&Crime in a phone interview that Project Veritas?s counsel has it wrong on the meaning of prior restraint?and that?s just what this order is.
?Even though it?s only an interim order, it is clearly a prior restraint, and it strikes at the very heart of the First Amendment protection of the U.S. to publish,? Epner said in a phone interview.
As for Locke?s definition, Epner said: ?It is not the way people understand the term prior restraint.?
?It is a restraint of what can be published before there has been a ruling on the merits,? he noted.
Furthermore, the rest of Locke’s comments are stunning in that she more or less admits that prior restraint is fine in the second part.
But, there’s a much bigger point here. This is Project Veritas demanding that a media organization not publish content that it had received. Project Veritas. An organization whose entire existence is based around trying to obtain material it’s not supposed to have or by honey trapping and surreptitiously recording people. What kind of fucked up organization would try to set a precedent that could then easily be turned around and used against its own practices?
The NY Times is very, very likely to appeal, and a NY appellate court is likely to toss this out very, very quickly — and hopefully the court provides Justice Charles Wood with a strong talking to about prior restraint and the 1st Amendment. Justice Wood should know this already — because it’s one of the most basic things about the 1st Amendment that every judge should know, but also because the NY Times told him directly in a letter filed earlier in the day.
Plaintiff?s proposed Order to Show Cause requests, among other things, that the Court enter an order directing The Times to ?refrain from further disseminating or publishing? information that Project Veritas asserts, without evidence, that The Times obtained improperly. Such an order is, on its face, the paradigmatic example of an unconstitutional prior restraint. See, e.g., Alexander v. United States, 509 U.S. 544, 550 (1993) (?Temporary restraining orders and permanent injunctions?i.e., court orders that actually forbid speech activities?are classic examples of prior restraints.?); Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, 402 U. S. 415 (1971) (vacating order ?enjoining petitioners from distributing leaflets anywhere in the town of Westchester, Illinois? as impermissible prior restraint); Vance v. Universal Amusement Co., 445 U. S. 308, 311, 317 (1980) (per curiam) (striking down, on prior restraint grounds, Texas statute that authorized courts, upon a showing that obscene films had been shown in the past, to issue an injunction prohibiting future exhibition of films that had not yet been found to be obscene); Porco, 116 A.D.3d at 1266.
Before the imposition of such a draconian and disfavored restriction, The Times should have the opportunity to be heard. The Times therefore respectfully requests that the Court hold in abeyance Plaintiff?s request to enter an Order to Show Cause in order to permit The Times to file a response in opposition to Plaintiff?s request no later than November 24, 2021. As our forthcoming opposition will make clear, Plaintiff?s request is factually and legally deficient. The request lacks merit and seeks relief that the Court cannot and must not grant.
Rather than do that, Justice Wood just granted Project Veritas’ blatantly censorial demands.
I still think that Project Veritas’s own rights deserve protecting, and remain concerned about the FBI raid. But Project Veritas is no defender of free speech itself. It is a censorial, thuggish, grifting, hypocritical organization and everything it does should be seen through such a lens.