Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Judith Miller may be charged with criminal contempt

So said her lawyer, Floyd Abrams, to an obviously misinformed Lew Dobbs who must have just arrived from another planet. Full transcript also here. Abrams said that the possibility existed that Miller might be charged with criminal contempt of court by either prosecutor Fitzgerald or Judge Hogan. This would mean that she could lose her get-out-of-jail-free card which she expected to receive in October at the conclusion of the grand jury's term. Abrams took several shots at Arianna Huffington who had charged that Miller, far from standing up for journalistic principles, was trying to protect herself from federal charges for revealing the identity of a secret agent.

Dobbs, who apparently does not understand rule-of-law nor constitutional law, charged that Fitzgerald and Hogan were doing great injury to the First Amendment. Hey, Lew, take a note. The law is the law. Judges don't make the law, legislatures do. If the legislature says that a reporter must answer a grand jury's questions and the reporter has no right to refuse to divulge sources, then that is the law. The only thing that a federal judge can do is examine the constitutionality of the law, and, if the law is constitutional, then the judge must uphold that law. The Supreme Court already ruled many years ago that reporters have no right under federal law to refuse to divulge sources. The current Supreme Court refused to even hear the Miller case, ruling, in effect, that the issue was already decided and they would not revisit it.

It is really tiring to hear an ignorant, uneducated and misinformed "expert", especially one with a bully pulpit like Dobbs', bloviate at length about something in which he is so obviously wrong. Should reporters enjoy some type of federal protection for confidential sources? Probably. Do reporters enjoy such protection, today? No. Call or write your congressman. End of story.

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