A Huffington Post reporter has been slapped with two subpoenas from Michigan’s attorney general, seeking copies of notes and records relating to interviews that she conducted. Dana Liebelson, a political reporter for the news outlet, broke the news on Twitter:
I have an announcement: Last week, during a reporting trip on juvenile prison conditions, I was served 2 subpoenas by Michigan’s AG office.
— Dana Liebelson (@dliebelson) March 9, 2015
On March 5, Liebelson said in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, she was interviewing an inmate at a Michigan state prison when she was pulled from the session by a representative from the AG’s office. She identified the rep as David Dwyre, a special agent with the office’s criminal division. Dwyre presented Liebelson with a subpoena and asked her to sign an acknowledgement form, which Liebelson initially declined to do. After Dwyre said that he’d make note of her refusal, she signed the form. Her interviewing session was only halfway done when the intrusion occurred, says Liebelson. It happened again the following day, after Liebelson had traveled about two hours from where she was staying to another Michigan state prison. Dwyre was there again. (Liebelson had to clear her visits in advance with the prisons.) Again he presented Liebelson with a subpoena. As she tweeted …
… the subpoenas seek “complete and unedited copies of any and all records and/or documents in your possession related to [redacted].” The “request” includes interview notes. The document demands that the materials be made available to Mark E. Donnelly, a Michigan assistant AG who is defending the state’s prison system against a class-action sexual abuse lawsuit.
Though Liebelson wouldn’t disclose some details of these run-ins — such as the locations of the facilities — because they concern a pending story, she said that the actions of the Michigan attorney general affected her newsgathering activities. “I was very worried that the things I was writing down would be used to retaliate against the inmates,” she says.
Ryan Grim, the Huffington Post’s Washington bureau chief, says his outfit is “fully supporting her in fighting the subpoenas and we find it ridiculous.”
The Erik Wemple Blog has requested a response from the office of Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette and will update this post when we receive it.
Update (4:55 p.m.): The Michigan AG says in a statement that it will withdraw the subpoenas:
In doing the Department’s job of defending the State of Michigan from lawsuits, a civil service attorney followed a common legal procedure of subpoenaing information from individuals entering Michigan prisons to speak to prisoners who are suing state taxpayers. However, after further review Attorney General Schuette has determined that information necessary to defending the State of Michigan can be obtained in other ways and will direct Department attorneys to withdraw the subpoenas.