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States side with SF Chronicle reporters on protecting sources

Updated:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Two dozen states filed a brief on behalf of two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, telling a federal appeals court that public interest demands the recognition of a journalist's right to protect confidential sources.

In papers filed with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, the states, led by New York, challenged a federal judge's order to imprison the reporters who refused to testify about who leaked them secret grand jury testimony of Giants slugger Barry Bonds and other athletes.

Most all of the two dozen states have some type of shield law protecting reporters from having to divulge unpublished material. They urged the court to adopt a reporter's privilege in federal court, where one does not exist.

"Here, the states' broad protection for reporters weighs in favor of recognizing a common law reporters' privilege," the states argued.

In August, a federal judge found reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada in contempt of court for refusing to reveal how they obtained transcripts from a grand jury that investigated whether the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative supplied steroids to professional athletes.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White sentenced the reporters to up to 18 months in prison unless they testify. They remain free while their case is being considered by the San Francisco-based appeals court.

A hearing is scheduled for February 12th.

In addition to New York, the states who filed briefs are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia. Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, also supported Williams and Fainaru-Wada.
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