U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Subpoena seeking unreleased footage issued to former editor at CBS2 News

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 8, 2021
Chicago, Illinois

Subpoena/Legal Order

Legal Orders
Legal Order Target
Legal Order Venue

A portion of the subpoena issued to the former president and general manager of CBS2 News seeking unpublished video and audio footage as part of a lawsuit against the Chicago Department of Education.

June 8, 2021

On June 8, 2021, a subpoena seeking reporting materials was issued to Derek Dalton as part of his former role as president and general manager of CBS2 News in Chicago, Illinois.

According to court documents, subpoenas identical to Dalton’s were served on the same date to CBS2 News’ parent company, Viacom CBS, reporter Dave Savini, and a non-entity as part of a lawsuit brought by a mother on behalf of her son 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. All demanded footage from an interview with the child and with the relative, who answered questions from Savini after leaving a criminal court. CBS 2 aired a segment with the interviews in February 2019.

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 Dalton and Savini. Lawyers to the plaintiff also agreed to narrow the scope of the subpoenas, demanding only the video and audio outtake recordings of the interviews.

In objecting to the subpoenas, attorneys for CBS claimed Dalton was not currently employed by the company and was not an employee when he was issued the subpoena. The current status of Dalton’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].