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New York Times Co. v. Gonzales

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
459 F.3d 160 (2006)


Facts

The United States government (defendant) developed a plan to freeze the assets and search the premises of the Global Relief Foundation (GRF) and the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) in order to investigate whether HLF and GRF were funding terrorist activities. Judith Miller and Philip Shenon, reporters working for the New York Times Company (NYT) (plaintiff), learned of the government’s plans and contacted HLF and GRF for comment prior to the searches of their premises. The government began an investigation into the source of the leaks to Shenon and Miller. Patrick Fitzgerald, a United States attorney, sought to obtain the telephone records of Shenon and Miller from the NYT. Fitzgerald told the NYT that if it did not provide the telephone records, Fitzgerald would seek to obtain those records from the NYT’s telephone-service providers. The NYT refused and brought a complaint against the United States government and others (defendants), seeking a declaratory judgment pursuant to federal common law and the First Amendment that the reporter’s privilege against the compelled disclosure of confidential sources prevented the enforcement of a subpoena against records held by third-party telephone providers. The defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that declaratory judgment was precluded because the NYT had an adequate remedy under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure (FRCP) 17(c)(2), which permitted courts to quash or modify subpoenas ordering witnesses to produce evidence when compliance would be unreasonable or oppressive. The NYT opposed the motion to dismiss and moved for summary judgment, and the defendants cross-moved for summary judgment. The federal district court denied the defendants’ motion and granted declaratory judgment. The defendants appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Winter, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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