The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Monday that reporters cannot claim a constitutional privilege to refuse to testify or produce documents before a grand jury if they have personal knowledge of a crime.
In a unanimous decision, the court sided with a judge who said a reporter "stands in the same shoes as any ordinary citizen" and thus can claim no special privilege in a criminal investigation.
The court struck down claims of Denver Post reporter Howard Pankratz, who fought a subpoena by a grand jury trying to determine if a state official leaked information from secret grand jury proceedings.
"We find no testimonial privilege, under the federal or the Colorado Constitution, which would shield petitioner [a reporter] from an obligation to respond to the subpoena which has been issued to him," the court said.
In New Jersey, meanwhile, a Superior Court judge ruled, in the first test of the state's revised shield law, that a newspaper reporter must let him inspect a letter she received from a government informer who is a key witness in a major organized crime trial.
Judge Michael Imbriani told Robin Goldstein, a reporter for The Shrewsbury Daily Register, that she could be held in contempt of court if the letter from the informer Patrick Pizuto were not submitted by Thursday. He said his decision could be appealed immediately.
"Neither the First Amendment nor the New Jersey Constitution nor the amended shield law confers absolute and total immunity on the press from court order," Imbriani said. He held that because Goldstein's source was not confidential her right to privacy was minimal and outweighed by defense rights.