Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller case brief

In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller case brief summary
397 F.3d 964 (D.C. Cir., cert. denied, 545 U.S. 1150 (2005)

Appellants, a newspaper reporter, a magazine's White House correspondent, and the magazine, challenged a judgment from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which held them in civil contempt for refusing to give evidence in response to grand jury subpoenas served by a special counsel.

After news media accounts reported that a former ambassador's wife worked for the CIA, the Department of Justice began investigating whether government employees had violated federal law by the unauthorized disclosure of the identity of a CIA agent. The special counsel appointed to investigate issued subpoenas to appellants, seeking testimony and documents related to articles they had written and published concerning the ambassador's wife. After they refused to comply, the district court held them in contempt, holding that their refusal was without just cause.


  • On appeal, the court held that appellants' claim that the information they concealed was protected by a reporter's privilege under the First Amendment was meritless because the United States Supreme Court had previously rejected the existence of such a privilege. 
  • The court held that even if a common law privilege existed, it did not warrant reversal. 
  • The court held that appellants' due process rights were not violated by the special counsel's refusal to provide them access to his secret evidentiary submissions in support of their subpoenas.

The judgment holding appellants in civil contempt was affirmed.

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