Three Washington-based news organizations asked the federal appeals court here yesterday to require the Secret Service to establish standards for approving or denying reporters' requests for White House press passes.
They contended that the right to obtain the passes, which admit reporters to the White House press office, should be protected by the constitution's first amendment.
The organizations are the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press the officers of the White House Correspondents Associations, and the National Press Club.
They foled a friend-of-the-court brief in behalf of two reporters, Robert Sherill and Thomas Forcade, who claim they were unconstitutionally refused press passes to cover the White House. Sherill is Washington correspondent for The nation and Forcade formerly was a reporter for the Alternative Press Syndicate.
After hearing the case last summer, a District Court here ordered the Secret Service to publicize specific standards for issuing or denying press credentials, to judge the two reporters' requests by those standards, and to give them the right to present evidence in their behalf. The government is appealing that ruling.
Sheriff and Forcade had been refused press passes on security grounds. The Treasury Department subsequently explained that Sherill had been arrested and fined in an assault case in Florida and that Forcade had thrown a pie at a member of the President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography.
The three organizations acknowledged the right of the White House to exclude persons who pose a "reasonable likelihood" of danger of the life of the President.
But the government also has an obligation to establish public standards governing issuance or rejection of press passes and to provide those refused with an opportunity to present arguments at a hearing, they argued.