WE HAVE A SHIELD RULE!

The Utah Supreme Court has adopted Rule 509, a reporter’s shield rule for Utah. THANK YOU to all who commented in favor of this. You have helped to guarantee a free and open press!

-Ben Winslow
President, Utah Headliners Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists.

The announcement from our attorneys:

Good news! The Utah Supreme Court yesterday adopted a reporter’s shield rule for Utah. Acting with remarkable speed, the Court adopted Rule 509 of the Utah Rules of Evidence just one day after the public comment period on the Rule closed. According to an email I received last night from the Court’s legal counsel, Rick Schwermer, and confirmed by a phone call this morning, the Court met yesterday and adopted the rule, effective immediately. That means news reporters in Utah are covered by the new privilege as of now. Schwermer said the Court would issue a written order later formalizing its adoption of the Rule.
The text of the new reporter’s privilege rule is attached. The Court adopted the version of the Rule supported by the Utah Media Coalition.
The Rule creates a near-absolute privilege for confidential sources. The only exception: when disclosure is necessary to “prevent substantial injury or death.” As Mike and I explained in our last status report to you, this language is even more protective of confidential sources than existing case law and would compel disclosure of confidential sources only in the most extreme circumstances.
The rule also protected unpublished non-confidential newsgathering material, e.g., outtakes, notes, photographs, etc., subject to the balancing test that the Utah federal and state courts have been using for the past twenty years.
Through this process, Mike and I have become intimately familiar with the shield laws of the other 47 states and the District of Columbia. In our judgment, the Utah rule provides some of the strongest protections to news reporters of any shield law in the nation.
The Supreme Court’s adoption of the rule culminates a nearly three-year-long campaign to enact a reporter’s shield law in Utah. As you know, there have many ups and downs along the way. The end result is very gratifying. Our thanks go to all of you who submitted public comments of the Rule, helped us educate the Advisory Committee and Supreme Court, consulted with us on strategy, and took the battle to the public via op-ed pieces, radio and television interviews, and editorials. This could not have happened without your support.
Best Regards,
Jeff Hunt
Mike O’Brien
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