The LA Times scored a victory in court for the First Amendment on Tuesday after ALADS—The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs—filed an emergency motion to prevent an LA Times reporter from publishing information from department members’ background screenings.
One presumes that most of the screenings are a part of the hiring process. And while there are some privacy issues to consider, since the Times and others have reported on possible irregularities in the LASD’s screening and hiring process that may have, in certain instances, allowed people into the department who are not suited for law enforcement, it is understandable that a Times reporter would consider the screening material important.
The LAT’s Victoria Kim has the story. Here’s a clip:
The Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs filed an emergency motion against The Times and a Times reporter Tuesday morning, alleging that the reporter unlawfully possessed background investigation files containing personal information of about 500 deputies.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell denied the union’s motion, writing that the union failed to present “the evidence most critical to the showing of irreparable harm or immediate danger.”
“The court declines to issue [an order] imposing a prior restraint on defendants’ free speech based on the speculative hearsay testimony of anonymous witnesses,” she wrote.
Attorneys for The Times had argued that prior restraint, or restricting speech before publication, was a grave infringement of the 1st Amendment. The attorneys said prior restraint has been considered unconstitutional by courts except in extraordinary circumstances such as troop movements in wartime or to “suppress … information that would set in motion a nuclear holocaust.”
The newspaper’s attorneys also wrote that the union had no basis for seeking an emergency order, noting that The Times has published other stories based on information from employment records in the past.
The Times has reported since last October on the department’s hiring of employees who had personal ties to top officials or Sheriff Lee Baca despite histories of violence and brushes with the law.
In August, the Sheriff’s Department announced in a news release that it had launched a criminal investigation into an apparent leak of personnel information to a Times reporter….