Law Quadrangle (formerly Law Quad Notes)


If journalists, why not social workers? Guidance counselors? Psychiatrists? Bankers? Sociologists? Ombudsmen? Parents? Close friends?

This is a question frequently asked those who content that journalists should not have to reveal to courts and investigative bodies information received in confidence from news sources. The principle is well established in the common law that fact-finding tribunals are generally entitled to "everyman's evidence" no matter what adverse consequences may ensue to the unwilling witness's personal or economic relationships. There are, however, some much-criticized exceptions to this general principle of disclosure. Lawyers and spouses have common-law privileges against compulsory disclosure. Statues in two-thirds of the states give doctors and priests a similar immunity from subpoenas. In some circumstances, police officers cannot be compelled to reveal the identity of their informers. Military and diplomatic "secrets of state" are privileged. There is a trend towards statutory privilege for psycho-analysts.