Pa. Shield Law quashes subpoena for documents leaked to Philly reporter

    The Philadelphia Inquirer will not have to provide documents subpoenaed by Montgomery County prosecutors investigating alleged leaks by Attorney General Kathleen Kane. (Emma Lee/WHYY

    The Philadelphia Inquirer will not have to provide documents subpoenaed by Montgomery County prosecutors investigating alleged leaks by Attorney General Kathleen Kane. (Emma Lee/WHYY

    A Pennsylvania judge has killed a subpoena from Montgomery County prosecutors seeking documents from a Philadelphia newspaper reporter that were obtained from a confidential source.

    In 2014, Chris Brennan wrote a story for the Philadelphia Daily News about a grand jury investigation into the head of the Philadelphia NAACP.

    Philadelphia Attorney General Kathleen Kane has been accused of leaking that material to Brennan, then trying to cover it. Prosecutors say she then lied about it to investigators.

    Brennan, who now works for the “Inquirer” testified under oath two years ago as part of the investigation, but he cited his Shield Law protections of not having to reveal a source’s identity.

    Redacted copies of the leaked material were provided to the prosecution team, led by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, though prosecutors sought the original physical documents to inspect for a forensic analysis, hoping to discover fingerprints, or other identifying markings, that would expose the leaker.

    Brennan refused, again citing the state’s Shield Law. His attorney Mike Schwartz said it would be a terrible precedent to hand over confidential information from a source.

    “There would be no further sources that would ever want to commit to discussing information, and sensitive information, about corruption, or other types of graft and fraud and waste and misuse,” Schwartz said.

    Advocates of journalistic protections see Pennsylvania’s Shield Law as one of the strongest in the country. It gives reporters throughout the state the right to not identify a source.

    “This issue goes beyond any particular case,” Schwarts said. “The Shield Law is there to fully and completely protect sources of information to journalists

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