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Obama-Appointed Judge Holds Former Fox News Reporter Catherine Herridge in Contempt for Refusing to Reveal Her Sources

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A federal judge on Thursday ruled that former Fox News and CBS journalist Catherine Herridge was in contempt of court for not revealing her sources in a series of 2017 reports while she was at Fox.

Herridge was also hit with an $800-a-day fine for not revealing her sources in a series of stories that said Chinese American scientist Yanping Chen was under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Chen has since sued the FBI, saying the Privacy Act was violated by information leaked by the FBI, according to CNN.

Chen subpoenaed Fox and Herridge to testify as part of her strategy to identify the leak.

Judge Christopher Cooper’s order putting Herridge in contempt followed Herridge’s steadfast refusal to reveal her sources after she was ordered by the court to do so.

Cooper was appointed to the federal bench in 2014 by former President Barack Obama, according to Ballotpedia.

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Cooper wrote in his order that the decision had wider implications.

“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,” Cooper wrote.

“Herridge and many of her colleagues in the journalism community may disagree with that decision and prefer that a different balance be struck, but she is not permitted to flout a federal court’s order with impunity,” Cooper wrote, referring to an earlier decision requiring Herridge to reveal her sources.

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Cooper rejected Herridge’s proposal for a fine of $1 per day.

“Such a trivial sanction would not serve the fundamental purpose of civil contempt: ensuring compliance with a court order. It would permit Herridge to pay pittance in perpetuity while continuously violating the Court’s directive and effectively vitiating Chen’s right to pursue her Privacy Act claim,” he wrote.

Cooper said that the fine would not kick in right away.

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“At the same time, Herridge does have a right to appeal this contempt order in the hopes of persuading the D.C. Circuit to recalibrate the existing qualified reporter’s privilege in her favor or forge a new federal common law newsgathering privilege that sweeps more broadly than the Constitution.  To provide ample room for her to exercise that right, the Court will stay the contempt sanction pending a timely appeal,” Cooper wrote.

Patrick Phibin, the lawyer representing Herridge, said an appeal is forthcoming, according to CNN.

Fox News expressed its concern with the ruling.

“Holding a journalist in contempt for protecting a confidential source has a deeply chilling effect on journalism. Fox News Media remains committed to protecting the rights of a free press and freedom of speech and believes this decision should be appealed,” Fox said in a statement.

Andrew C. Phillips, a lawyer for Chen, said in a statement that without the protection afforded by the Privacy Act, federal law enforcement could “exploit its expansive powers to invade an American citizen’s private life and then selectively leak documents to smear reputations or score political points,” according to The New York Times.

“Today’s ruling is an important one to ensure that government officials can be held to account for outrageous abuses of power,” Phillips said.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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