The GRIP responds with objection to subpoena demanding production of records in federal trial

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The GRIP has responded to a subpoena in a federal civil rights trial demanding Publisher Sheila Mathews produce work product associated with multiple investigative reports primarily involving the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office.

The subpoena was issued as part of Civil Action No. 3-15-CV-163-TCB – Jessica Kelley, et al. v. Captain David Gibson, in his individual and official capacities, et al.

According to the legal documents, the plaintiffs’ legal counsel seeks to compel The GRIP to produce, “Any investigative notes, records, recordings, text messages, documents, emails and things, including but not limited to any articles published electronically or otherwise by The GRIP, pertaining to The GRIP’s investigations into Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, Former Sheriff Wendell Beam, Sheriff Darrell Dix, former Captain David Gibson, Jessica Kelly, Catherine Lewis, Karen Law, Misty Piper, Kimberly Barnett, Melanie Bowen and/or Susan Bohannon.”

Mathews, represented by Tom Clyde, an attorney who serves on the Georgia First Amendment Foundation Board of Directors, responded by filing an objection to the subpoena’s demands.

As a non-party in the federal case, The GRIP’s objection states, “Pursuant to Federal R. of Civ. P. 45(d)(2)(B), non-party The Grip hereby responds and objects to the Subpoena for Production of Documents as follows:

Request 1: Any investigative notes, records, recordings, text messages, documents, emails and things, including but not limited to any articles published electronically or otherwise by The Grip, pertaining to The Grip’s investigations in Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, Former Sheriff Wendell Beam, Sheriff Darrell Dix, Former Captain David Gibson, Jessica Kelly, Catherine Lewis, Karen Law, Misty Piper, Kimberly Barnett, Melanie Bowen and/or Susan Bohannon.

Response: The Grip objects to this Request pursuant to the First Amendment to the United States and Georgia Constitutions, federal common law and O.C.G.A. § 24-5- 508. Under established law in this Circuit, The Grip is accorded a qualified privilege to refuse disclosure of information or materials obtained in the gathering or dissemination of the news, including those requested here. The Grip accordingly objects to the production of the materials requested – other than any responsive published materials – to the extent any such materials exist. See United States v. Capers, 708 F.3d 1286, 1302-04 (11th Cir. 2013). See also O.C.G.A. § 24-5- 508 (reporters’ shield law); In re Paul, 270 Ga. 680, 684 (Ga. 1999).

To the extent this Request seeks published materials, The Grip objects to this Request as overly broad and unduly burdensome in that, among other reasons, The Grip has published dozens of reports over a multi-year period regarding the individuals identified in the Request. Those reports are equally available to the parties in this action at The Grip’s website, the-grip.net.”

Eleanor Atwood, lead attorney for the plaintiff’s in the case, has not responded to The GRIP’s objection.

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