Section 103 imposes a duty on the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House to require disbursing officers acting under their direction or authority, to submit a return of precise and analytical statements and receipts for all moneys expended during the preceding year. The section further provides that the results of such returns and the sum total shall be communicated annually to Congress by the Secretary and the Clerk. It should be observed that under Section 103, the only documents to be submitted to the Congress by the Secretary and the Clerk, respectively, are the results of the returns made by the disbursing officers and the sums total.
Section 113 requires the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House to submit full and complete statements of their receipts and disbursements showing the items of their expenses in detail. There is no express provision and none can be perceived as a matter of necessary implication to the effect that all of these financial statements are to be termed public records in the sense of being accessible to public inspection. The conclusion is, therefore, irresistible that no statutory right is granted to the plaintiff, or to any other member of the public, to have access as a matter of course to the records that he seeks to inspect.
The plaintiff, however, does not base his claim solely on an alleged statutory right. He asserts that he has a Constitutional right to inspect the records in question. He predicates this contention on two grounds, each independent of the other. First, it is urged that the right to see the records in question is part of the Constitutional freedom of the press, since he desires to inspect them in his capacity as a representative of the press. Freedom of the press is, of course, one of the basic elements of the Anglo-American concept of ordered liberty. It is considered of such vital importance that it is expressly protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution as against infraction by Federal law, and is safeguarded by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as against interference or transgression by the States.
To discuss freedom of the press at length would be superfluous, for we have reached a stage in our development at which we take it for granted. It is no longer essential to vindicate and champion it as was valiantly and convincingly done by John Milton in his Areopagitica, in the 17th Century, when the idea seemed novel, dangerous and almost revolutionary. The Anglo-American world has progressed so that even as far back as a century ago, it was observed by John Stuart Mill in his celebrated essay on Liberty, that 'the time, it is to be hoped, is gone by, when any defense would be necessary of the 'liberty of the press' (Chap. II). In the interest of clarity of thought, however, it is essential to define our terms and consequently the phrase, 'freedom of the press' needs explanation and interpretation.
Freedom of the press comprehends a right to print and publish and to disseminate, circulate, and distribute matters that have been printed, without prior restraint, without license, without censorship, and without discriminatory taxation, but subject to the consequences of the law of libel and to the criminal penalties imposed by such laws, as those that ban obscenity, fraud, incitement to crime, espionage and the like, or that protect the needs of national defense and security.
The press in not liberated, however, from amenability to law generally. For example, newspaper publishers and press associations are subject to the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.,
the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 201 et seq.,
and the Antitrust laws, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq.
the liberty of the press does not include any legal right of securing assistance from public officials in procuring information that it is desired to print. It does not comprise any alleged right of access to material not available to others, any more than it would include the privilege of attending closed meetings at which news of interest might possibly be gathered.
It is a useful device for testing the cogency and soundness of an argument to endeavor to apply it to extreme supposititious cases and determine its possible effect an them. Thus, it would hardly be argued that the press, in exercising its Constitutional privilege, may insist on the admission of its representatives to meetings and conferences that are not open to the public, such as, for example, executive sessions of Congressional committees, meetings of the President's cabinet, conferences of judges in deciding cases that have been argued before them, as well as other similar groups. Similarly, it would hardly be urged that the press is entitled to access to written material that the law does not regard as being automatically open to public inspection, such as, for example, staff reports submitted to Congressional Committees, until the latter choose to release them; letters to the President from his advisers, unless he sees fit to make them public; memoranda written by personnel of executive departments to their superiors; or drafts of contemplated or tentative opinions of members of the judiciary until they take final form and are publicly handed down. Numerous other instances of a similar nature may be cited at length.
The conclusion is inevitable that the Constitutional privilege of freedom of the press does not include a right on the part of representatives of the press to inspect documents not open to members of the public generally.
The second basis on which the plaintiff urges that the defendants have invaded his Constitutional rights is that their refusal constitutes an interference with his right to pursue his occupation and, therefore, is a deprivation of a property right without due process of law. Manifestly, the defendants have done nothing to obstruct affirmatively the plaintiff's pursuit of his chosen calling. The most that can be said is that they have declined to aid him to see documents which Congress has not seen fit to make accessible to the public. Much that has been just said in regard to the Constitutional freedom of the press is equally applicable here. The conclusion is inescapable that there is no basis for the contention that there has been any unlawful interference with the plaintiff's Constitutional right to pursue his vocation.
In the light of the foregoing considerations the court is of the opinion that the plaintiff has no legal right to insist on seeing the records that he desires to inspect and that, consequently, the complaint does not state a claim on which relief may be granted.
Motion to dismiss the complaint is granted.