A U.S. Circuit Court Judge last night assailed the Supreme Court for what he called attempts to curtail the First Amendment rights of American citizens.
Addressing about 350 people in the Ames Courtroom in conjunction with the Law School Forum. Judge J. Skelly Wright of Washington, D.C. spoke on "The People's Right to Know," as defined by the First Amendment.
"The present trend in Court rulings indicates to me a strong deference to the executive branch's fear of public exposure and its paternalism towards the public," Wright said.
Defends Journalistic Privilege
Wright condemned the Supreme Court's refusal to grant immunity to New York Times reporter Earl Caldwell when a U.S. grand jury asked him to reveal sources. "The Court did not consider whether the names of informers might have been obtained by some means less destructive to First Amendment rights," Wright said.
Wright expressed the fear that the Caldwell decision and two related Supreme Court rulings will hinder attempts at investigative reporting.
He added, however, that "Radio stations and news organizations are politically strong enough that the outcome of this came is possibly reversible." In substantiating his claim that the executive branch gets special privileges Wright said that courts have not explored the Freedom of Information Act of 1966. These require the Federal government to make unclassified documents available to the public.
"The executive branch has not been cooperative in exposing important documents about dangerous drugs, government contracts, nuclear explosions, and all conceivable kinds of information to the interested citizen," Wright said.
"Unless courts are willing to look under the rubber (classified) stamp, the only documents that will be produced are these the executive branch wants to produce."