Justice Charles Wood ordered the NY Times to immediately give back all copies of their documents regarding Project Veritas’s talks with lawyers
The Times were also told to destroy any electronic copies of the documents
Wood argued that the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege and the Time’s story was of no interest to the public
The Times had published stories about the far-right activist groups’ alleged deceptive practices that bordered on ‘political spying’
Media critics warned that the judge’s ruling set a dangerous precedent for First Amendment rights
The newspapers vowed to seek a stay on the judge’s order and file an appeal
Project Veritas v. N.Y. Times Co., 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 31908 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2021)
DEC 24, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LINY : DEC 25, 2021
A New York judge upheld his order for The New York Times to return documents they obtained about communications between the conservative activist group Project Veritas and the group’s lawyers.
In his Friday ruling, Justice Charles Wood ordered The Times to immediately give back all physical copies of their Project Veritas documents and destroy any electronic copies the newspaper has, as they were protected by attorney-client privilege.
Wood also argued that The Time’s story regarding the documents were of no ‘general interest and of value and concern to the public.’
A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The Times, said the news outlet would seek a stay of the ruling and would appeal it on First Amendment grounds.
‘This ruling should raise alarms not just for advocates of press freedoms but for anyone concerned about the dangers of government overreach into what the public can and cannot know,’ Sulzberger said in a statement.
A New York judge ordered the NY Times to return all the files it obtained regarding communications between Project Veritas and their lawyers. Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe is suing The Times for defamation against the far-right media outlet .
The Times’ leadership said they would appeal the ruling and warned that it set a dangerous precedent against freedom of the press.
New York Justice Charles Wood argued that The Time’s story about Project Veritas was not newsworthy.
‘In defiance of law settled in the Pentagon Papers case, this judge has barred The Times from publishing information about a prominent and influential organization that was obtained legally in the ordinary course of reporting.’
The judge’s order came as part of a defamation lawsuit filed against The Times by Project Veritas leader James O’Keef.
The group came under federal scrutiny in relation to the alleged theft of the diary of President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley, which the group considered publishing but never did. The group admitted to being in possession of the diary at some point but claim to have since handed it over to authorities.
Portions of the diary were published by National File, a right-wing website, which said they were provided by a frustrated employee of a media outlet that passed on them. Project Veritas denies any connection to the publication of the diary.
It has objected to a November 11 New York Times article that drew from memos from a Project Veritas lawyer, and purported to reveal how the group worked ‘gray area between investigative journalism and political spying’ using its lawyers to ‘gauge how far its deceptive reporting practices can go before running afoul of federal laws.’
O’Keefe and the group have been heavily criticized for allegedly using deceptive tactics to expose what it describes as liberal media bias.
Elizabeth Locke, a lawyer for Project Veritas, said: ‘Today’s ruling affirms that The New York Times’s behavior was irregular and outside the boundaries of law.
‘The court’s thoughtful and well-researched opinion is a victory for the First Amendment for all journalists and affirms the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship,’ Locke added.
Ashley Biden (right), 40, is the only daughter of President Joe Biden and first lady Jill. A Project Veritas employee was accused of leaking her diary to an alt-right website.
Ashley Biden, 40, is the only daughter of President Joe Biden and first lady Jill.
A Project Veritas employee was accused of leaking her diary to an alt-right website.
The New York Times published this article on November 11 sparking allegations from Project Veritas claiming that the Department of Justice leaked documents to the newspaper.
This September 2020 New York Times report led Project Veritas to file a defamation lawsuit.
O’Keefe and Project Veritas have alleged that The Time’s story is meant as nothing more than a smear campaign against the group.
Following Friday’s ruling, O’Keefe said, ‘The Times is so blinded by its hatred of Project Veritas that everything it does results in a self-inflicted wound.’
The group had been suing over a September 2020 The Times article describing a video it released that alleged voter fraud connected to the campaign of U.S. congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat.
The New York Times reported that the allegations made in the video were made: ‘through unidentified sources and with no verifiable evidence.’
Media critics have frowned upon Wood’s decision as they argued it threatened the freedom of the press.
Erik Wemple, a media critic for the Washington Post, called the ruling ‘a monster lump of First Amendment coal.’
‘There are many gobsmacking aspects of this ruling, but the one that most alarmed me was the part where Judge Charles Wood tried to argue that the Nov. 11 NYT story was somehow not newsworthy because the documents were ho-hum,’ Wemple wrote on Twitter.
Theodore Boutrous Jr., a lawyer who represents media outlets, told The Times the ruling was ‘way off base and dangerous.’
‘It’s an egregious, unprecedented intrusion on news gathering and the news gathering process,’ Mr. Boutrous said.
‘The special danger is it allows a party suing a news organization for defamation to then get a gag order against the news organization banning any additional reporting. It’s the ultimate chilling effect.’
Media critic Erik Wemple was among those worried about the kind of precedent Justice Charles Wood’s ruling set for the freedom of the press.
Dean Baquet, The New York Times’ executive editor, previously said Wood’s November 18 order to stop newspaper set a ‘dangerous precedent,’ while the newspaper has said courts might find prior restraints acceptable only ‘rarely,’ such as to protect national security.
The New York Times had not faced any prior restraint since 1971, when the Nixon administration unsuccessfully sought to block the publication of the Pentagon Papers detailing U.S. military involvement in Vietnam.
An attorney for O’Keefe aso accused the Department of Justice of tipping off The New York Times about recent raids on current and former employees, while suggesting federal prosecutors may have also leaked the group’s legal communications.
The FBI conducted raids at O’Keefe’s New York home and those of others connected to Project Veritas this month, seizing two of O’Keefe’s cell phones, among other items.
Days later The New York Times published a report based on memos from the group’s lawyer, revealing his legal advice on the group’s use of false identities and undercover filming, tactics that are eschewed by most modern journalists.
Later that day, a federal judge ordered the DOJ to stop extracting data from the phones, granting a request from O’Keefe’s legal team made the day before for an independent party to be appointed to oversee the review of the confiscated devices.