A U.S. District Court judge Thursday firmly quashed a wide-ranging subpoena that sought to depose New Yorker writer Jane Mayer in a civil suit against the Clinton White House and the FBI stemming from the Filegate scandal.
The subpoena, issued earlier this month by attorney and conservative gadfly Larry Klayman on behalf of several former Reagan and Bush administration officials whose FBI files ended up at the White House in 1993, ordered Mayer to appear for questioning at Klayman's office next week and sought all of her notes, documents and other materials going back to 1992.
The subpoena, one of many filed by Klayman in his 18 suits against the Clinton administration, has attracted the attention of First Amendment experts because of its potential chilling effect on reporters. Klayman also has issued similar subpoenas to Salon, Salon's Washington bureau chief, Jonathan Broder, and contributing writer Murray Waas.
Mayer was subpoenaed because of an article she wrote in March that revealed that Linda Tripp, the Pentagon employee who secretly taped Monica Lewinsky's account of a sexual affair with President Clinton, had been arrested for theft as a teenager and lied about it on her Pentagon security form. According to Floyd Abrams, Mayer's lawyer, Klayman, a fierce critic of the Clinton administration, wanted to demonstrate a pattern of mishandling personnel files within the administration. Klayman claims a Pentagon official leaked the information about Tripp to Mayer.
In granting Mayer's motion to quash the subpoena, U.S. Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that "the documents, records and other materials sought by plaintiffs, including the deposition testimony which would be given by Mayer, are largely irrelevant to the matters at issue in this case." He ruled that the subpoena was overly broad and that many of the documents Klayman sought were covered by Mayer's claims of journalistic privilege.
To overcome Mayer's journalistic protections, Klayman had to demonstrate that the information he sought goes to the heart of his clients' claim of violation of privacy. "Without question," Lamberth wrote in his three-page opinion, "there has been no demonstration that the information sought from Mayer goes to the 'heart' of plaintiffs' case."
The subpoenas of Salon and its writers were also issued in connection with the Filegate civil suit. Neither Broder nor Waas has ever written about the case. Salon's only coverage of the matter was an interview with Ronald Kessler, the author of a book about the FBI, in which Kessler criticized the White House's handling of the Filegate matter.
Broder, Waas and Salon had been scheduled to appear in the coming days for their depositions, but last week Klayman informed Salon's lawyers that he was placing their subpoenas in abeyance after the court informed him that he had exceeded his 20-deposition limit.