California Shield Law (text)

CA Shield Law (text)About the CA Shield Law –

Shield laws generally protect news-people against having to disclose “confidential sources” or surrender “unpublished information” such as notes and out-takes.

In California, article I, section 2(b) of the California Constitution and Evidence Code section 1070 provide an immunity from being held in contempt to reporters, editors, publishers, and other people connected with or employed by newspapers, magazines, press associations and wire services, as well as radio or TV news reporters.  The California shield law applies to both the source of information (“confidential sources”) and to “unpublished information” such as notes, out-takes, unpublished photographs and tapes.

When a criminal defendant seeks information protected by the shield law, the courts have set up a “balancing test” which weighs how important the information is to the criminal defendant, whether the defendant can get the information elsewhere, and other factors.  See Delaney v. Superior Court (1990) 50 Cal. 3d 785.  On the other hand, when the prosecution seeks information in a criminal law, the shield law is absolute.  Miller v. Superior Court (1999) 21 Cal. 4th 883.  And in a civil case where the press is not a party, the immunity from contempt is also absolute – there’s no balancing test.  New York Times v. Superior Court (1990) 51 Cal. 3d 453.   This case helps journalists avoid being forced to be professional witnesses instead of professional journalists.

Does the shield law cover bloggers?  Good question.  The California shield law covers people “connected with or employed upon” a “newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service.”   That question is likely to be litigated in the near future.   (from News Gathering by Karl Olson)

Text of the California Shield Law, Evidence Code Section 1070

1070.  (a) A publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected
with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical
publication, or by a press association or wire service, or any person
who has been so connected or employed, cannot be adjudged in
contempt by a judicial, legislative, administrative body, or any
other body having the power to issue subpoenas, for refusing to
disclose, in any proceeding as defined in Section 901, the source of
any information procured while so connected or employed for
publication in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication,
or for refusing to disclose any unpublished information obtained or
prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for
communication to the public.
   (b) Nor can a radio or television news reporter or other person
connected with or employed by a radio or television station, or any
person who has been so connected or employed, be so adjudged in
contempt for refusing to disclose the source of any information
procured while so connected or employed for news or news commentary
purposes on radio or television, or for refusing to disclose any
unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving
or processing of information for communication to the public.
   (c) As used in this section, "unpublished information" includes
information not disseminated to the public by the person from whom
disclosure is sought, whether or not related information has been
disseminated and includes, but is not limited to, all notes,
outtakes, photographs, tapes or other data of whatever sort not
itself disseminated to the public through a medium of communication,
whether or not published information based upon or related to such
material has been disseminated.