U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena seeking unreleased footage issued to Chicago CBS2 News reporter

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 8, 2021
Chicago, Illinois

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue
Savini Subpoena
June 8, 2021

A subpoena seeking reporting materials was issued to CBS2 News reporter Dave Savini on June 8, 2021, in Chicago, Illinois, as part of a lawsuit brought by a mother on behalf of her son.

According to court documents, subpoenas identical to Savini’s were also served to CBS2 News’ parent company, Viacom CBS, former news editor Derek Dalton and a non-entity on the same date. All demanded footage from Savini’s interview with the child, who was allegedly beaten in a school bathroom with belts provided by his teacher, and the child’s relative, who is accused of the assault. Shortly after the incident, the relative answered questions from Savini after leaving a criminal court. CBS 2 aired a segment with the interviews in February 2019.

Attorneys for CBS objected to the subpoena on behalf of Savini on July 12, stating that all materials were privileged newsgathering information. Attorneys also cited federal and state reporter’s privilege statutes, saying that collecting the files would be “unduly burdensome to produce.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit eventually withdrew the subpoena issued to Viacom-CBS on Oct. 21, redirecting it to CBS Broadcasting, Inc. (CBS2) and reissuing the subpoena to Savini and Dalton. Lawyers to the plaintiff also agreed to narrow the scope of the subpoenas, demanding only the video and audio outtake recordings of the interviews. The current status of Savini’s subpoena is unknown but a motion to compel CBS2 to produce the footage was ultimately upheld on April 29, 2022.

In her decision to uphold the outlet’s subpoena, United States Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan wrote that “there is no federal common-law reporter’s privilege applicable in this case, and CBS 2 cannot withhold the requested audio/video outtakes on this basis.” The court ordered the outlet to produce the unreleased footage by May 13, 2022.

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