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Judge: Walter Isaacson doesn't have to hand over biography notes


It's beginning to look like we'll need to change our name to "The Unofficial Apple Legal Weblog," since we have a story of one more case involving Apple. This story is in reference to a class action suit regarding alleged price fixing on ebooks by Apple. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have requested access to Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson's private notes from his interviews with Jobs, but the judge in the case has ruled that Isaacson doesn't need to comply.

Isaacson invoked reporter's privilege and refused to hand over source material and a list of documents and recordings involving his time with Jobs. U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote agreed on July 20 that Isaacson didn't need to comply with the request, but gave the class-action lawyers an out -- they can try again to force Isaacson to comply provided that they pass a legal test that sometimes allows disclosure of journalists' non-confidential material.

One lawyer for the plaintiff, Steven Berman, argues that the reporter's privilege is moot, since Jobs never asked Isaacson for confidentiality. Berman also says that he has another source for Jobs' comments about ebooks.

The Department of Justice is trying hard to knock down the time-honored reporter's privilege in a case where they're attempting to get a Wall Street Journal reporter to testify in a case against a former CIA officer. Fortunately, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is friendly towards a free press, commenting in another case that "wholesale exposure of press files ... would burden the press with heavy costs of subpoena compliance, and could otherwise impair its ability to perform its duties ... [it] would risk "the symbolic harm of making journalists appear to be an investigative arm of the judicial system, the government, or private parties."

[via paidContent]

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