Leaders of the Society of Professional Journalists signed onto an amicus brief with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in support of former USA Today reporter Toni Locy on March 10.
On March 7, Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that Locy was in contempt of court for refusing to reveal her confidential sources in the Privacy Act suit brought by former Army scientist Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, who was considered a person of interest in the 2001 anthrax attacks. SPJ leaders say this move demonstrates the need for a federal shield law.
The judge declined to recognize any common law privilege that would have permitted Locy to shield her source’s identity. Even more disturbing is that Walton refused to issue a stay that would allow Locy to appeal to the D.C. Circuit. Additionally, Locy was individually and solely responsible for paying up to $5,000 a day in fines for every day she refused to comply. Gannett , which is Locy’s former employer, filed and won an emergency stay March 10. This action allowed Locy’s attorneys to appeal to the 7th Circuit. While the case remains open on appeal, Locy will not be required to pay the fines handed down by Walton. As of press time, her next court date in the 7th Circuit is scheduled for May 9.
SPJ has raised more than $30,000 since 2006 to support a campaign for the passage of a federal shield law.