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rest of the story
by JUDY HODGSON
In May, readers may recall,
the North Coast Journal and one of our reporters, Andrew
Edwards, were served a subpoena by Pacific Lumber Co. PL wanted
us to turn over all of our notes, tapes, unpublished photos and
anything else we had in our files concerning a story we did on
Freshwater treesitters in hopes of enhancing the timber company's
civil case against the trespassers.
At the time we editorialized
about the unfairness of the request. After all, the Times-Standard
and the Washington Post, among other publications, did
similar stories and received no such subpoena. We also noted
that the law is very clear: In civil cases, where an individual
or a corporation sues another, a reporter's material is protected
by the California Shield Law. Period.
Our conclusion was that this
was an amateurish attempt by PL attorneys to intimidate this
newspaper. The Times-Standard also came to our aid with
a similar editorial.
Three months and a few thousand
dollars in attorneys' fees later, the issue is resolved. There
were exchanges of letters with much posturing. In one hilarious
missive, our media attorney in Sacramento wrote to PL's attorney
-- Mr. Russell Gans of Mitchell, Brisso, Delaney &
Vrieze of Eureka: "Thank you for your letter of May 28,
2003. We appreciate your expressed appreciation of Mr. Edwards'
rights under the shield law and your determination to resolve
our differences without unnecessary litigation." (I appreciate
the fact that lawyers are so appreciative -- except, perhaps,
when it's costing me money --and I especially appreciate my attorney.
But how did she write that with a straight face?)
Anyway, in the end we "complied
with the subpoena," which is not the same as "we caved."
Apparently the PL attorney decided
that instead of answering his six pages of specific requests,
listed by the alphabet letters "A" through "O,"
and deposing our reporter, he would be content with a statement
from me, the publisher, as a custodian of records, that the article
published on March 6, 2003, was "a true and correct copy"
of the article published on March 6, 2003.
I would have been happy to comply
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