U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Deputy editor subpoenaed in connection with blinded photojournalist’s lawsuit

Incident Details

June 2, 2022 - Update

Subpoenas dropped following settlement in blinded photojournalist’s lawsuit

The City of Minneapolis’ subpoena against Minnesota Reformer Deputy Editor Max Nesterak was rendered moot after the city agreed to a settlement in the lawsuit on May 26, 2022.

The lawsuit was brought by independent photojournalist Linda Tirado, who was struck by a rubber bullet amid protests in May 2020 and permanently blinded in one eye. The city subpoenaed Nesterak and two other journalists in March 2022, ordering them to produce a broad range of materials and communications relating to their coverage of protests following the police killing of George Floyd. The Reformer filed a motion to quash the subpoena on March 28.

According to court documents reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the parties reached a tentative settlement on May 17, and the Minneapolis City Council agreed to pay Tirado $600,000 on May 26.

The parties filed a joint motion to dismiss the case on June 2; by concluding the court proceedings, the subpoenas were rendered moot. The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has changed the subpoena status to “dropped.”

March 18, 2022

The City of Minneapolis issued Minnesota Reformer Deputy Editor Max Nesterak a subpoena on March 18, 2022, in connection with a pending lawsuit against the city and multiple law enforcement officials.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Nesterak was one of three journalists ordered to produce a broad range of materials and communications relating to their coverage of protests following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020. The subpoenas were filed in connection with an excessive use of force lawsuit filed by freelance photojournalist Linda Tirado, who was permanently blinded in one eye after police shot her with a crowd-control munition on May 29.

Nesterak, who declined to comment on advice from counsel, confirmed on Twitter that he was one of the journalists served with a subpoena.

In a subsequent post, Nesterak included a photo of the subpoena, which orders him to bring “all videos, photographs, recordings, communications, documents, or other items in your possession (including social media posts) that are related to you being hit in the chest as stated in your tweet from 11:32 p.m. on May 27, 2020.” The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker has documented that incident here.

The subpoena also orders Nesterak to produce any images or documents pertaining to his coverage of the protests from May 26-31, 2020, and any communications he may have had with Tirado or her legal counsel, excepting anything that he has “a good faith basis to assert is protected by a legally recognized journalistic privilege.”

According to MPR News, the city issued similar subpoenas to Andy Mannix of the Star Tribune and Jared Goyette, who was a freelance journalist during the protests and now works for Fox 9.

The City Attorney’s Office shared a statement with the Tracker that said the individuals subpoenaed were identified by Tirado as having relevant information.

“It is incumbent upon the City Attorney’s Office, as it would be any attorney, to obtain information relevant to their client’s case, whether or not the individuals possessing that information happen to be journalists.”

In a statement shared with the Tracker, Reformer Editor-in-Chief J. Patrick Coolican said the outlet intends to fight the subpoena.

“This ham-handed effort to intimidate journalists with a burdensome legal action will not achieve its intended effect,” Coolican said. “Quite the contrary. We will continue to aggressively pursue our reporting, and protect our newsgathering rights from interference by government officials.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]