Patch editor Joseph Hosey faces $300-a-day fines and time in jail if he does not comply with a Will County judge's order and disclose the source of investigative reports about a double murder in Joliet.
The legal battle between Patch Media and the courts has journalists and the public talking, and here are two recently expressed points of view.
David Cuillier, national president of the Society for Professional Journalists, believes "no one should live under the threat of imprisonment just for doing his job — reporting the truth." Cuillier was recently a guest on National Public Radio and addressed the legal situation involving Hosey and Patch Media.
Will County Circuit Judge Gerald R. Kinney wants to know who provided the information to Hosey, so he ordered everyone who might be involved — police officers, prosecutors, defense lawyers and others — to provide the court with a sworn affidavit. In a fishing expedition that produced more than 500 of these affidavits, no one has admitted that he or she slipped these documents to Hosey.
The Illinois statute protecting reporters and giving journalists a privilege is well established; it has been on the books for 31 years. It says that a reporter can be stripped of the privilege only when “all other sources of information have been exhausted” and the “disclosure of the information sought is essential to protection of the public interest involved.”
Southtown columnist Phil Kadner can't seem to figure out why Will County judges make the decisions they do. Judge Kinney's decision about reporter privilege is as baffling as his decision about watching pornography in the privacy of judicial chambers.
Kinney has pierced the reporter privilege because, well, he doesn’t think it should exist.
Kinney is the same judge who told the Sun-Times to take a hike when it sought computer records about another Will County judge who was surfing the Internet for porn while in his court chambers. Former Circuit Court Judge Joseph Polito searched 243 porn sites during a six-month period from 2010 to 2011.
We know this because the Illinois attorney general’s office overruled Kinney’s contention that Polito’s porn surfing was protected as judicial work product and therefore not subject to Illinois’ freedom of information law.
The attorney general’s office noted that Polito’s computer was paid for by the public and that looking at porn sites is not protected by judicial privilege. Maybe Kinney figures that if judges can’t secretly look at porn on the public’s dime, reporters shouldn’t be able to protect their sources.
It’s hard to know what Kinney is thinking because this decision makes no sense.
In the case of the porn judge, the attorney general overruled Kinney on the question of judicial privilege. The question of reporter privilege is headed to an appeals court.
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