Constitutional Law-Freedom of the Press-Right of News Media Personnel to Refuse to Disclose Confidenial Sources of Information
A former personnel director of a local Civil Service Commission instituted an action for reinstatement to that position, alleging that her recent ouster was illegal. In preparing for trial, defendant commission members took the deposition of a reporter for a local newspaper. Appellant reporter stated on direct examination that his suspicions regarding a contemplated attempt to fire plaintiff were in part based on certain information received from a confidential source. On pre-trial cross-examination appellant refused to disclose the source of this information, and plaintiff obtained a court order directing him to do so. On interlocutory appeal, held, order affirmed, one justice dissenting. Absent a statutory grant, a newsman has no evidentiary privilege of non-disclosure as to confidential news sources; and a court order requiring disclosure does not constitute an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of the press. In balancing the relative interests involved, the duty of witnesses to testify in judicial proceedings predominates, under the circumstances, over any right of a newsman to refuse to divulge the identity of confidential sources of information. In re Goodfader’s Appeal, 367 P.2d 472 (Hawaii 1961).