American Bar Association Supports Federal Reporters’ Shield Statute
CHICAGO, Aug. 9, 2005 – The American Bar Association House of Delegates today supported a federal reporters’ shield law to protect the public’s access to information and to promote the fair administration of justice.
“Our action today acknowledges the important role of journalists and the media in providing the public with significant information to ensure an informed democracy, and reporters’ need to be able to protect sources in order to get that information. But it also recognizes reasonable standards for compelling journalists to name sources or disclose information gleaned in gathering news,” said Michael S. Greco of Boston, who became ABA president today.
To overcome the reporters’ shield, the new association policy would require a showing that the information sought from a journalist is essential to a critical issue, that all reasonable alternative sources for the information have been exhausted, and that the need for the reporter’s information clearly outweighs the public interest in free flow of information.
The association’s House of Delegates also supported a series of policies designed to improve security for federal and state judges, both in and out of court.
The measures include urging Congress and the Department of Justice to consider whether existing federal laws are adequate to protect the safety of all persons involved in the federal judicial process, including safety considerations generated by the publication of personal information about judges and other judicial officers that has been redacted from their Federal financial disclosure forms; support for steps to improve security for state court judges; and creation of a National Clearinghouse on Federal and State Court Security.
In a separate action, the association’s policy-making body urged all Americans, including elected officials, to defend the role of the judiciary in maintaining fundamental liberties under the U.S. Constitution and deploring attacks on the judiciary that demean it as a separate and co-equal branch of government.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.