NEW YORK –A New York judge upheld an order preventing The New York Times from publishing documents between conservative group Project Veritas and its lawyer and ruled that the newspaper must immediately waive confidential legal notes it obtained.
Westchester County State Supreme Court Justice Charles D. Wood on Thursday, released Friday, comes in a defamation lawsuit that Project Veritas filed against the Times in 2020.
Months after the complaint was filed, the newspaper reported that the US Department of Justice was investigating Project Veritas as part of the theft of a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter. In that story, The Times cited the memos, leading Project Veritas to accuse the newspaper of violating attorney-client privilege.
Wood upheld his earlier order preventing The Times from further publishing the memos, and also ruled that the newspaper must turn over physical copies of the documents and destroy electronic versions.
The newspaper indicated he would appeal the decision and ask for a stay in the meantime. Editor AG Sulzberger called the decision an attack on press freedoms and an alarm for “anyone concerned about the dangers of government overstretching what the public may and may not know.” . He also said he risked exposing sources.
“In defiance of the law settled in the Pentagon Papers case, this judge banned The Times from publishing information about a major and influential organization that was obtained legally in the ordinary course of reporting,” Sulzberger said in a statement. reported by The Times which also claimed there was no precedent for Wood’s decision.
Project Veritas presents itself as a watchdog, often of the media. He is known to use hidden cameras and hide identities to try to trick reporters into embarrassing conversations and to reveal alleged Liberal bias.
In a statement released Friday, Project Veritas lawyer Elizabeth Locke hailed the ruling as “a First Amendment victory for all journalists and affirms the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship.”
“The New York Times has long forgotten the meaning of journalism it claims to espouse, and instead has become a vehicle for the pursuit of a partisan political agenda,” Locke said. “Today’s ruling asserts that the behavior of the New York Times was irregular and outside the bounds of the law.”
Wood also rebuffed the idea that the ordinance endangered press freedoms, writing in his ruling that “steadfast loyalty and vigilance in protecting First Amendment freedoms” cannot infringe fundamental rights of secrecy. professional or private life of the lawyer.
He wrote that while some aspects of Project Veritas, including its journalistic methods, may be of public interest, its attorney-client communications are not.
News organizations, including the Associated Press, backed the Times and asked the court not to impose what they called an unconstitutional prior restriction on speech in a brief by a friend of the court filed last month by the Journalists Committee for Freedom of the Press.
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