In a win for the conservative investigative journalists at Project Veritas, a State Supreme Court judge in New York has ordered the New York Times to destroy memos from the organization in its possession that include information covered by attorney-client privilege, as the Washington Examiner reports.
Judge Charles Wood declared in an order issued last week declared that the Times wrongfully secured and published material from memos produced by a lawyer for Project Veritas that discussed the group’s reporting methods and techniques.
At specific issue was an article in the Times published on Nov. 11 which referenced information gleaned from the memos in question and attempted to explain how Project Veritas collaborated with lawyers to “gauge how far its deceptive reporting practices can go before running afoul of federal laws,” as Fox Business reported.
The dispute is part of a defamation suit filed by Project Veritas against the Times in late 2020, and this ruling comes on the heels of another in which the outlet was temporarily blocked from publishing that information, as the Examiner reported at the time.
Pursuant to Wood’s order, the physical copies of memos retained by the Times must be delivered to counsel for Project Veritas, and the outlet is barred from using copies of the documents or any information contained in them, and noncompliance with those directives could result in substantial sanctions against the paper.
In the opinion of Judge Wood, the legal memos do not present issues of public concern, and its journalists’ right to keep their contents private outweighs the concerns about press freedom raised by the Times in its arguments.
“Steadfast fidelity to, and vigilance in protecting First Amendment freedoms cannot be permitted to abrogate the fundamental protections of attorney-client privilege or the basic right to privacy, wrote Wood.
News of the decision was greeted enthusiastically by Harmeet Dhillon, attorney for Project Veritas, who tweeted “Christmas came early…NY Trial court issued devastating opinion ruling that the @nytimes improperly obtained and published its litigation adversary’s non-waived privileged communications.”
Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger, however, vowed an immediate appeal, opining that the ruling “should raise alarms not just for advocates of press freedoms but for anyone concerned about the dangers of government overreach into what the public can and cannot know.”