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Anthrax reporter appeals contempt of court order for not revealing sources

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments Friday in the appeal by former USA Today reporter Toni Locy [profile] against sanctions imposed on her for refusing to disclose government sources [RCFP backgrounder] who provided information about former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven J. Hatfill [Washington Post profile]. In a March ruling, US District Judge Reggie Walton found Locy in contempt of court [PDF text; JURIST report] and ordered that, beginning March 11, Locy pay a fine of $500 a day; the fine was due to increase to $1000 a day after one week and then up to $5000 a day after two weeks. Walton refused to delay the sanctions until Locy could file an appeal and also ruled that Locy cannot accept reimbursement for the monetary sanctions. The appeals court later granted [PDF text; JURIST report] an emergency stay against the monetary sanctions while Locy pursued her appeal. Locy's lawyers said that she is unable to pay the fines and categorized the sanctions as "destructive," arguing that Walton had abused his discretion. On Friday, the court appeared receptive to the argument.

Locy, currently a journalism professor at West Virginia University, has refused to cooperate in Hatfill's suit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for its alleged violation of the US Privacy Act [text], arguing that the information Hatfill is seeking has not been demonstrated to be central to the lawsuit. Hatfill was identified as a "person of interest" in the investigations of the 2001 anthrax attacks [GWU backgrounder]. He contends that FBI and DOJ officials violated federal privacy laws [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] by providing personal information and information about the investigation to journalists. AP has more.

Editor's Note: Toni Locy served as a JURIST student staff member while pursuing her MSL at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2006-07.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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