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Assembly Joint Resolution 31

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 3 months ago

Assembly Joint Resolution 31


Below is Assembly Joint Resolution 31 (AJR 31) which was passed by the State

Senate yesterday (40 to 0) and by the State Assembly last year (70 to 0 with

10 abstaining). State Senator Caroloe Migden of SF and Assemblyman Mark Leno

of SF are both co-authors.








INTRODUCED BY Assembly Member Evans


relative to speech





This measure would respectfully urge the Congress of the United

States to enact a shield law for America's journalists.


WHEREAS, A free press is vital to the publication of important

news within our society so that our government is accountable to its

citizens; and


WHEREAS, A journalist's promise of confidentiality to a source is

often the only way the public can learn about waste, fraud, and abuse

in government and the private sector, and the forced disclosure of

confidential sources and information will cause individuals to refuse

to talk to journalists, resulting in a chilling effect on the free

flow of information and the public's right to know; and


WHEREAS, The most famous confidential source in United States

history, W. Mark Felt, also known as Deep Throat, voluntarily

revealed his identity as a resident of Santa Rosa 33 years after the

Watergate scandal revealed corruption in the highest levels of the

Nixon White House; and


WHEREAS, Shield laws promote the free flow of information to the

public and prevent government from making journalists its

investigative agents by prohibiting courts from holding journalists

in contempt for refusing to disclose unpublished news sources or

information received from those sources; and


WHEREAS, California's shield law was first enacted in 1935 and

later incorporated as subdivision (b) of Section 2 of Article I of

the California Constitution in 1980 to provide that a journalist may

not be held in contempt for refusing to disclose a news source or

unpublished information gathered for news purposes; and


WHEREAS, California's shield law was broadened in 2000 to also

provide that no testimony or other evidence given by a journalist

under subpoena in a civil or criminal proceeding may be construed as

a waiver of immunity rights provided by the California Constitution,

that a journalist subpoenaed in any civil or criminal proceeding

shall be given at least five days' notice, except in exigent

circumstances, and that a judge must set forth findings on the record

stating why the testimony of a journalist is essential to guarantee

the defendant's constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial

when presiding over a criminal trial wherein a journalist is

asserting protection under the media shield law; and


WHEREAS, In O'Grady v. Superior Court (2006) 2006

Cal.App.LEXIS 802, the application of California's shield law was

further broadened to include the gathering and collection of news by

journalists publishing information through the Internet; and


WHEREAS, Thirty-one states -- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas,

California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana,

Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana,

Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina,

North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island,

South Carolina, Tennessee - and the District of Columbia have

statutory shield laws giving journalists some form of privilege

against compelled production of confidential or unpublished

information; and


WHEREAS, Eighteen states - Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa,

Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire,

South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West

Virginia, and Wisconsin - have established varying confidentiality

privileges for journalists through their courts; and


WHEREAS, In 2005, legislation was introduced in Connecticut to

establish a shield law and also within Maryland and Minnesota to

expand their shield laws ; and, in 2006, legislation was

introduced in Washington to establish a shield law and also within

New York to expand its shield law ; and


WHEREAS, There are several pending measures in the Congress of the

United States to establish a federal shield law for journalists,

some of which recognize the necessity for media disclosure of a

source to prevent imminent and actual harm to national security; and


WHEREAS, Over the last five years, three federal courts of appeals -the

First Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, and the Circuit for the District of

Columbia- have affirmed contempt citations issued to reporters who declined to reveal

confidential sources, each imposing prison sentences more severe than

any previously experienced by journalists in American history; and


WHEREAS, In relation to Miller v. United States (2005) 125 S.Ct.

2977 and Cooper v. United States (2005) 125 S.Ct. 2977, the

Attorneys General of 34 states -- Arizona, California, Colorado,

Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa,

Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi,

Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio,

Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota,

Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and

Wisconsin - and the District of Columbia stated in an amicus brief

submitted to the United States Supreme Court, "A federal policy that

allows journalists to be imprisoned for engaging in the same conduct

that these State privileges encourage and protect 'buck(s) that clear

policy of virtually all states,' and undermines both the purpose of

the shield laws, and the policy determinations of the State courts

and legislatures that adopted them;" and


WHEREAS, Confidentiality of certain communications has long been

protected in order to further important interests, both public and

private, including communications between doctor and patient, lawyer

and client, and priest and penitent; and


WHEREAS, A May 2005 poll conducted by the First Amendment Center

and American Journalism Review found that 69 percent of Americans

agree with the statement: "Journalists should be allowed to keep a

news source confidential;" now therefore, be it


Resolved by the Assembly and the Senate of the State of

California, jointly, That the Legislature of the State of California

respectfully urges the Congress of the United States to enact a

shield law for America's journalists; and be it further


Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of

this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United

States, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to each

Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the

United States.

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