Fans of the proposed federal shield law, the Free Flow of Information Act, will be happy to hear that the New York state shield law protected a Wall Street Journal reporter’s rights to keep her email messages and notes concealed from a casino tycoon in trial court last week.
Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands Corporation wanted records from Wall Street Journal reporter Kate O’Keeffe for an article she wrote in December detailing the wrongful termination of employee Steve Jacobs, former head of Adelson’s Macau casino operations in China.
Jacobs filed a wrongful termination suit in the Nevada court in 2010, and in June 2012, he issued a court filing saying Adelson had “personally approved” a prostitution strategy on Macau properties, according to the Wall Street Journal.
After O’Keeffe published Jacobs’ story, Adelson filed a libel lawsuit Feb. 22 against O’Keeffe. Adelson’s lawyers subpoenaed The Wall Street Journal’s parent company, News Corp., asking for all the newspaper’s communications and documents with Jacobs, as well as O’Keeffe’s phone records with Jacobs since Jan. 1, 2010.
Apparently, they thought O’Keeffe’s records could serve as evidence in Adelson’s defamation suit against Jacobs, according to the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
But a four-page opinion by Judge Donna M. Mills on May 31 squashed the subpoena, saying Adelson failed to prove that the material he was seeking was highly relevant, critical to his claim and not obtainable through another reasonable method, which the state shield law requires.
Even so, the decision could be appealed to a higher New York state court, according to the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.
Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.