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One Hawaii Senator Kills Media Shield Law – Senator Clayton Hee Goes on My Naughty Liar’s List

First amendment attorney Jeff Portnoy tells reporters that one Senator – Judiciary Chair Clayton Hee – killed Hawaii’s journalism shield law this 2013 legislative session even though it is considered one of the best in the country because of his distrust and disdain for the media.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/LtH4jtUF4AU]

 

Hawaii State Senate Statement Regarding House Bill 622 – (Journalism Shield Law)

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“Passing the amendment without consulting with the other chamber affirmatively kills the bill.  The draft that was passed out of conference in the form of HB622, HD1, SD1, CD1 continued the additional protections of a shield law above and beyond what is provided by Hawaii’s constitution for the press.

The floor amendment presented a very substantive change to the conference draft that was agreed upon by the House and Senate conferees. Every draft of the bill up until that point sought to make the shield law permanent.  To introduce such a substantive change, moments before the Senate began its floor session, lacked the transparency and openness that the public expects and deserves. “

-Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria

 

Attorney Jeff Portnoy’s Response to Senator Hee’s Comments on Floor of Senate on April 17 – Re: Hawaii Shield Law

Click to read where the bill stands

Click to read where the bill stands

Dear President Kim and Members of the Senate:

As I said in my earlier letter to you, I do not wish to engage in a pointless debate with Sen. Clayton Hee on the merits of HB622 Regarding Evidence. However, Sen. Hee’s insistence on distorting the record requires a response.

The Judiciary Evidence Committee’s Report of December 2011 states that it recommends that “the sunset provision be eliminated and that Act 210 be integrated into H.R.S. Ch. 621.” The committee says the Legislature might, “were it so inclined,” look at sections of the law. Nowhere is there any indication of a minority report or dissenting vote on the committee. Committee discussions were confidential so if Deputy Attorney General Diedre Marie-Iha wishes to cast a public dissent, that is her right. However, in testimony submitted to the House Judiciary Committee on February 2, 2012, on a matter related to the shield law, Judge Glenn Kim, chair of the Evidence Committee, said this:

The Judiciary supports making the news media privilege permanent by repealing the scheduled sunset date of Act 210, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008, as amended by Act 113, Session Laws of Hawaii, as proposed in House Bill No. 2763, which is currently pending hearing by this committee.” (Underscore added)

Nothing Judge Kim said at that time would suggest that the committee was anything but supportive of the shield law.

I should note that during the senate judiciary committee hearing on HB622 on March 28, 2013, Deputy Attorney General Marie-Iha submitted her testimony late so it was not available to the committee or the public until moments before she testified. I did not have an opportunity to read it, much less comment at length about what she had to say.

Sen. Hee contends that at that hearing the news media were unable to provide examples of how the shield law has been used over the past five years. He bases this statement on the testimony of one testifier, whom Sen. Hee badgered during questioning. Sen. Hee gave no one else an opportunity to respond to his question. If he is interested, I can cite examples where the shield law has been used to ward off problems. There are the Ka Loko Dam breach case on Kauai and the Big Island voter fraud case. The shield law was invoked in these cases to head off major problems involving confidential sources used in news gathering. And having the law deters others from trying to force disclosure because they know the law prevents going on fishing expeditions for news sources and unpublished information.

If Sen. Hee is interested in more information on this matter, I would be happy to provide it in depth and detail when I return. I offer these comments now in the interest of a clear record for you to make rational decisions involving important matters of a free press in Hawaii.

Sincerely,

/s/ Jeffrey S. Portnoy, Esq.

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