Web Stories Thursday, April 25

A federal judge on Thursday held veteran journalist Catherine Herridge in contempt of court, fining her $800 a day for refusing to divulge her sources for a series of stories published in 2017 while she was a correspondent at Fox News.

Herridge, who has aggressively fought the case, is expected to appeal the judge’s decision. The case could have sweeping First Amendment implications for journalists and news organizations across the country.

Herridge, who no longer works at Fox News, refused in September to disclose the sources used for her stories, defying a court order issued earlier in the year by the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The order from Judge Christopher Cooper came as a result of a lawsuit filed by Chinese American scientist Yanping Chen against the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Citing documents reviewed by Fox News, Herridge reported that Chen was the subject of a federal probe. Chen has alleged that federal authorities improperly leaked information about her, violating the Privacy Act.

In an effort to prove her case, Chen subpoenaed Herridge and Fox News, with the hope of unmasking the reporting’s sources. Fox News and Herridge aggressively fought the move, arguing that Cooper should quash the subpoenas because of First Amendment protections afforded to the press.

But Cooper disagreed and ordered otherwise, stating that “Chen’s need for the requested evidence overcomes Herridge’s qualified First Amendment privilege in this case.”

That set the stage for a Sept. 26 deposition of Herridge, when the journalist was repeatedly asked how she obtained the information for her 2017 stories. Herridge politely declined to answer dozens of such questions.

In Thursday’s order, Cooper acknowledged that his decision would have implications for the press.

“The Court does not reach this result lightly,” Cooper wrote. “It recognizes the paramount importance of a free press in our society and the critical role that confidential sources play in the work of investigative journalists like Herridge. Yet the Court also has its own role to play in upholding the law and safeguarding judicial authority.”

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