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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Reporters Committee Encouraged by Alito Record on Most, Not All, Press Issues

Samuel Alito, President Bush's Supreme Court nominee, is getting some positive reviews - and some expressions of concern - from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The RCFP's assessment is important because the group provides a comprehensive and credible voice on legal issues affecting the reporting of the news.

Here's how RCFP summarizes its report on Alito's 15 years on the federal bench:

"As discussed in the report, Alito has recognized that laws restricting advertising income or imposing financial burdens on speakers or the news media interfere with First Amendment rights, even if they don't ban the speech outright.
"He also has shown a willingness to stop government action taken in retaliation for speaking out, and has demonstrated an understanding of the importance of the 'actual malice' standard in affording the news media protection from libel suits, assuring the breathing room necessary to guarantee a free press.
"And in determining how to apply the reporter's privilege against compelled disclosure of sources to individuals claiming to be journalists, he joined in a decision adopting a test that gives freelancers and other nontraditional journalists the protection of the First Amendment.
"But the news is not all good. Alito has not had a decision clearly upholding the public's right to keep its government in check through the Freedom of Information Act, and his one opinion in the area was a dissent that upheld the privacy interests of individuals in keeping information from the public.

"He also upheld the dismissal of a case that argued the government had committed fraud in a 1953 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court established the 'state secrets' privilege based on false allegations by government witnesses."

You can read the whole RCFP report here.