Judge quashes subpoena asking student editor for photo negatives

CALIFORNIA — A Sacramento County Superior Court judge on April7 quashed a subpoena asking a student editor to turn over unpublished photostaken during a fight at a football game.Judge Gerald S. Bakarich ruled that David Sommers, the editor of TheState Hornet,the student newspaper at California State University atSacramento, would not be held in contempt for refusing to hand over picturesof the arrest of Gustavo Chavez at a football game in September. Sommerswas facing a possible jail sentence for not handing over the film.Sommers’ attorneys argued that the student newspaper is protected underCalifornia’s shield law, which allows journalists to refuse to divulgeunpublished information obtained while reporting.Lisa Franco, Chavez’s attorney, subpoenaed copies of film negativesand notes reporters had taken during the football game in addition to photonegatives and notes taken during protests by the university Latino communityafter a picture of Chavez was published on the front page of The StateHornet.In December, a superior court judge threw out the subpoena foreverything but the photo negatives and the names of witness taken by thenewspaper during Chavez’s arrest.Bakarich, who charged Sommers with contempt in December, quashed thesubpoena after a review of the film negatives in his chambers. He ruledthat the photos provided no new evidence to the defense and did not containinformation that Chavez’s defense could not obtain through other means.Bakarich said he was concerned that the defense did not make an effortto contact the only witness named in the article published by The StateHornet.One of the requirements under the shield law is that the defensemust make an attempt to get information from other means before it cansubpoena material from the media.Franco said the witness was not contacted because the defense felt thewitness had no new evidence to offer.