Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kansas Shield Law Repels First Test

The Great Seal of the State of KansasImage via Wikipedia
Kansas' shield law (Senate Substitute for H.B. 2585), passed five months ago, served The Wichita Eagle well in its inaugural run last week.

Sedgwick County District Judge Willliam Woolley ruled that the Eagle did not have to disclose the identities of confidential sources it relied on for a story about the accidental death of a child last March. Counsel for the mother of the 5-year-old victim in a negligence/wrongful death action subpoenaed an Eagle reporter. Judge Woolley held that all other potential avenues for obtaining information must be exhausted before seeking the information from a journalist by means of subpoena.

The Kansas shield law requires a party seeking previously undisclosed information to make a reasonable effort to obtain the information initially in ways other than subpoenaing journalists.  In this case, Judge Woolley said the material could likely be obtained through discovery options available to litigants, such as interrogatories and requests for production of documents.
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  1. Its indigenous people hunted bison and sheep lead their agricultural output, so Kansans have long been well-served by all things "Woolley." Before subpoenaing reporters, courts want proof that the journalist has specific info about a probable specific violation of the law,that authorities can't get the info elsewhere, and that the govt. has a compelling interest and need for the info. Journalists can't do double-duty as a watchdog and a police dog.

  2. Thanks for the smile and your explanatory comments. I agree that journalists shouldn't be expected to do double-duty. It's an expectation that seems to be surfacing more and more frequently.

    Besides things "Woolley", Kansas has produced the brilliant playwright and novelist, William Inge. His 1961 "Splendor in the Grass" made a powerful and indelible impact on this then-15-year-old teenager and inspired me to seek out his other work. Inge was both courageous and sensitive, ahead of his time in many ways.

    There's another interesting aspect to your post.

    The motto on the great seal of Kansas is almost identical to that of the British Royal Air Force and the Canadian Air Force. There is only a slight difference in the word order. The British/Canadian version is "Per Ardua ad Astra" = Through Adversity to the Stars.

    If I'm recalling my Latin properly, Kansas' motto translates to "To the Stars Through Adversity".

  3. I haven't read Inge, though I did see "Picnic" with William Holden & a smoldering [not the same as acting]Kim Novak. Kansas has produced Amelia Earhart and Dwight Eisenhower, but my notable Kansans are jazz greats Charlie Parker & Coleman Hawkins and comic genius Buster Keaton. I knew you were a talented commentator, but that you speak fluent Latin is most impressive. I just know a legal Latin phrase or two that I use to impress judges now and then.

  4. Thank you, but you're much too kind and generous in your praise.

    My non-speaking Latin is the product of a Canadian public school system long-changed, and for the worse. Latin taught precision of language, and my recall of it is obviously flawed since "aspera" means difficulty or hardship, not adversity. Similar meanings, but not good enough in Latin.

    I'm certain you impress more than judges, and much more often than "now and then". Your posts consistently demonstrate a remarkable command of language coupled with diverse interests, knowledge and wit. They inform, educate, enrich and entertain. Very rare in today's world. I hope your students appreciate you, and realize how fortunate they are. I certainly do everyday I read your work.

    I agree with you on "Picnic". It didn't translate well to the screen and both Holden and Novak were wooden -- smoldering wood in Kim Novak's case.