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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  1.  
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    Beta, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 4:22pm

    more questions than answers

    According to the story, the police obtained a warrent from "a judge". Who was the judge who signed the warrent?
    And who actually broke the law? The police, the judge, or both? Or maybe the shield laws don't apply if there's a warrent (in which case they're not worth much).

     

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  2.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 5:05pm

    Re: more questions than answers

    "[W]ho actually broke the law? The police, the judge, or both?"

    I think this depends on what the judge was told the reason for the warrant was for. If he was lied to then it should only be the police, if the knowingly broke the law then I would say both.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    I think Levin is an ass but he is likely to pursue this since I think he is a lawyer.
    Sorry to repeat myself lawyer = ass.

     

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  4.  
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    Loki (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 5:26pm

    Umm... Patriot Act?

    Why do they even need a warrant.. Just claim it's a matter of national security, and bam!! They can do whatever they want, to whomever, at any time...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 6:08pm

    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.

    /shrug

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 6:20pm

    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.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 10:24pm

    The reason I'm against this law

    Is that it gives protection to journalists. That's missing the point. The protection should be given to everybody or nobody... a 'journalist' should have no more rights than you or I.

    I'm all for a shield law that applies to all of us, INCLUDING journalists.

     

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  8.  
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    Tor (profile), Oct 28th, 2009 @ 1:27am

    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.

     

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  9.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Oct 28th, 2009 @ 9:12am

    Shield laws

    Great article, Michael. Keep it up.

    I hope this gets resolved in a way that protects our freedoms, including journalistic shield laws (which I think should apply to bloggers, as well - I agree completely with you!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    I do not know much about American law, but supposing this was against a Shield law or against the law in some other way... what about the Fruit of the poison tree doctine? Fortunately for the source of the leak, you have very strict some evidence law.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    Sadly though bloggers have much worse protection,

    So how do they define the difference? Does it apply to only some journalists? What about a journalist with a blog?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2009 @ 12:25am

    Re: Re:

    So how do they define the difference? Does it apply to only some journalists? What about a journalist with a blog?

    No answers?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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