U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

New York federal court quashes subpoena of legal news site Above the Law

Incident Details

Date of Incident
February 1, 2021
New York, New York

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
February 1, 2021

Legal news site Above the Law's publisher, Breaking Media Inc., was subpoenaed on Feb. 1, 2021, amid a trade-secrets dispute between a legal recruiting firm and a former employee, but a New York federal court quashed the subpoena, saying it would be unduly burdensome to the media company.

The suit was brought by legal recruiting firm MWK Recruiting Inc. against former Breaking Media employee Evan Jowers. MWK alleged Jowers "misappropriated trade secrets and breached the non-compete and non-solicitation provisions of his employment agreement," according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Jowers asserted that articles in Above the Law were "improperly critical of him and his counsel" and alleged that this coverage was "orchestrated" by MWK's principal. This prompted the subpoena by MWK demanding that Above the Law produce numerous documents and provide comment regarding the four articles it published.

The opinion and order from the federal court says the Second Circuit "has long recognized the existence of a qualified privilege for journalistic information," protecting both confidential and nonconfidential information.

In the order, Judge Katherine Polk Failla said Jowers failed to adequately establish why the qualified privilege may be overcome and that the sought-after information was not of "likely relevance to a significant issue in the case."

Breaking Media declined to comment.

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