NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge has upheld an order preventing The New York Times from publishing documents between conservative group Project Veritas and its lawyer and ruled that the newspaper must immediately relinquish confidential legal memos it obtained.
Thursday’s decision by Westchester County State Supreme Court Justice Charles D. Wood was released Friday in response to a lawsuit Project Veritas against the Times filed in 2020.
The paper reported in a newspaper that Project Veritas had been investigated by the U.S. Justice Department months after it was brought to light. the theft of a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter. Project Veritas was angered by the Times’s quote of the memos in the Times story.
Wood upheld the Times’ earlier ban on publishing memos. He also ordered that physical copies be turned over to the Times and electronic copies destroyed.
The newspaper reported it would appeal the ruling In the interim, you can apply for a stay. Publisher A.G. Sulzberger decried the ruling as an attack of press freedoms and alarming for “anyone concerned about the dangers of government overreach into what the public can and cannot know.” He also said it risked exposing sources.
“In defiance of law settled in the Pentagon Papers case, this judge has barred The Times from publishing information about a prominent and influential organization that was obtained legally in the ordinary course of reporting,” Sulzberger said in a statement reported by the Times that also asserted there was no precedent for Wood’s decision.
Project Veritas is a media watchdog. It’s known for using hidden cameras and hiding identities to try to ensnare journalists in embarrassing conversations and to reveal supposed liberal bias.
In a statement Friday, Project Veritas lawyer Elizabeth Locke hailed the ruling as “a victory for the First Amendment for all journalists and affirms the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship.”
“The New York Times has long forgotten the meaning of the journalism it claims to espouse, and has instead become a vehicle for the prosecution of a partisan political agenda,” Locke said. “Today’s ruling affirms that the New York Times’ behavior was irregular and outside the boundaries of law.”
Wood also pushed back against the idea that the order endangered press freedoms, writing in his ruling that “steadfast fidelity to, and vigilance in protecting First Amendment freedoms” can’t infringe on the fundamental rights of attorney-client privilege or privacy.
His words were that, while some aspects of Project Veritas may be of interest to the public, such as its journalistic techniques, their attorney-client communications might not.
The Times received support from news agencies, including The Associated Press. The court asked them not to impose an unconstitutional prior restriction on speech in a brief by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.