Project Veritas scores a significant victory over the New York Times

After the DOJ authorized the FBI to conduct dawn raids on Project Veritas’s people because they briefly possessed, but neither stole nor published, the diary of Joe Biden’s drug-addicted daughter, Ashley, the New York Times “coincidentally” received and published copies of memos that Project Veritas’s attorneys had written regarding legal standards for investigative reporting—while Project Veritas was already involved in litigation with the Times. On Friday, a New York judge ordered that the Times must return every document and destroy every electronic file. It’s a huge victory for Project Veritas and an appropriate rebuke to the Times, which acts more sleazily than any supermarket tabloid ever has.

You can read more details about the back story here. If you don’t want the long version, the short version is best summarized in Michael Cernovich’s tweet on the subject:

Project Veritas sued the Times to recover the stolen material, and the Times promptly sought shelter behind (a) the First Amendment and (b) New York Times Company v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), which concerned the Times’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers. Without even reading that Supreme Court decision, one of the things that’s immediately obvious is that the 1971 case involved government documents that the Supreme Court concluded revealed matters of the utmost interest to the American public.

The Project Veritas matter, by contrast, involves the Times trying to destroy its competition by illegally obtaining and then publishing material subject to the attorney-client privilege—all while the Times and Project Veritas are already involved in litigation. The attorney-client privilege, for those unfamiliar with it, is right up there with the priest-penitent privilege as one of the most highly protected confidential relationships in both American public life and American jurisprudence.

On Friday, Project Veritas happily wrote that the New York Supreme Court (that’s the trial court level in New York state) ruled in Project Veritas’s favor:

NY Supreme Court, noting that "'Hit and run' journalism" is not protected, rules New York Times may have "improper[ly]" obtained PV's attorney-client memos before publishing them "ahead of the deadline it had set," and ORDERS the Times to (1) return the memos to PV; (2) destroy all copies of the memos it has, including removing them "from the internet"; (3) retrieve copies of the memos it provided to third parties including Columbia Journalism Professor Bill Grueskin; (4) not use the memos in PV's defamation lawsuit against the Times; and (5) confirm its compliance within 10 days.

The court said that there are many things the Times can do to obtain information: “The Times is perfectly free to investigate, uncover, research, interview, photograph, record, report, publish, opine, expose or ignore whatever aspects of Project Veritas its editors in their sole discretion deem newsworthy, without utilizing Project Veritas’ attorney-client privileged memoranda.”

Image: Lady Justice. Piqsels.

What it cannot do, however, is possess and publish attorney-client materials that are not matters of public interest but that are, quite simply, the garden-variety communications that all media outlets have with their attorneys to ensure that they are staying within the boundaries of the law. The judge didn’t say so, but I’ll add that, if the New York Times had consulted with its own attorneys, it might not have wrongly published what was almost certainly illegally obtained material and then faced a humiliating loss in court.

As for the Times, it instantly whined to its readers that the judge’s ruling was a blatant violation of the First Amendment. The whine smeared Project Veritas and, while it did mention Project Veritas’s earlier suit against the Times, it forgot to mention that it improperly (and illegally, according to Cernovich) came into possession of attorney-client documents that the FBI seized from Project Veritas during a raid that was clearly a political hit job. A druggie’s lost or stolen diary is not a matter of federal concern, even if the druggie’s father was a former Vice President at the time the diary vanished.

Ultimately, the Times is shocked—shocked!!—that a court would dare to say that there is nothing newsworthy about the day-to-day attorney-client memos of a rival journalism outlet, especially one involved in litigation with the Times.

The Times can invoke the First Amendment as much as it wishes but the reality is that it did something sleazier than the National Enquirer ever would have done in its heyday of sleaziness (and, indeed, since the Carol Burnett lawsuit, no Democrat mainstream paper is as honest as the National Enquirer is now). Judge Charles Wood is an honest man and deserves tremendous praise for a legally upstanding decision.

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