U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

KC broadcast station subpoenaed for unaired interview footage

Incident Details

SCREENSHOT

A portion of the subpoena issued to Kansas City, Missouri, broadcaster KMBC-TV on Oct. 26, 2022, seeking all footage and notes from interviews with five plaintiffs suing the State of Kansas and two highway patrol officers.

— SCREENSHOT
October 26, 2022

Missouri-based broadcaster KMBC-TV was issued a subpoena on Oct. 26, 2022, seeking all recordings and notes from multiple interviews as part of a lawsuit accusing Kansas Highway Patrol of misconduct.

Five women who are current or former highway patrol employees filed a lawsuit against the agency’s superintendent and assistant superintendent, as well as the State of Kansas, in February 2021. The Kansas City Star reported that the women allege the agency had a hostile work environment, with a culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

According to court records reviewed by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, the subpoena orders KMBC to produce any notes or audio or video recordings of interviews conducted with the plaintiffs, including outtakes and other unaired footage, by Nov. 14.

It is unclear if KMBC, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment, has or intends to comply with the order. No motion to quash the subpoena had been filed with the court as of Dec. 7.

Gaye Tibbets, an attorney representing the state and the highway patrol officers, told the Star in mid-November that they were negotiating with KMBC over the subpoena, but did not elaborate on the content of the disputes.

Tibbets did not respond to requests for further comment.

First Amendment attorney Max Kautsch, who is the president of the Kansas Coalition for Open Government, told the Star he was perplexed by the subpoena as it seeks documents that are explicitly protected by the state’s shield law.

“The Legislature passed this law almost 15 years ago for the express purpose of insulating journalists from misguided attempts to bring journalists into court,” Kautsch said.

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