The New York Times has lost its bid to obtain wiretap information related to former Governor Eliot Spitzer’s involvement in the Emperor’s Club prostitution ring. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that general journalistic or public interest — what the Times argued was the basis for disclosing the government wiretaps — did not count as “good cause” under the law.
The decision overturns a ruling by Southern District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who granted the Times‘ application to access sealed wiretap applications in the Emperor’s Club investigation.
Four people who either ran or worked for the prostitution ring were charged in the case in March 2008. Once Mr. Spitzer was revealed as a client of the ring, he quickly resigned from office, although he was not charged in the case. The four who were charged eventually pleaded guilty.
Initially, the government argued that revealing the wiretap would violate the privacy of the people charged, says a report by Mark Hamblett in the New York Law Journal. The Times, arguing that wiretaps were court documents and therefore public, nonetheless agreed to redact the names.
In a statement, an NYT spokeswoman said: “We are obviously disappointed with the result, and we continue to believe that public access to these types of court records would provide a valuable check on law enforcement agencies and on the courts. We are reviewing the decision and have not yet decided whether to seek further review.”
On Friday, the appeals court interpreted the law to mean that wiretaps are only available to aggrieved parties (Spitzer’s wife, in this case?). But since journalists lose out in this decision, that should give us all good cause for grievance.
Photo via LI Biz Blog (Old).
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 10, 2009