A. These Subpoenas Are Not So Broad And Sweeping As To Be Unreasonable Or Oppressive, and Are Therefore Valid Under The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contains the general provisions relating to discovery. It has long been held that the deposition-discovery rules are to be accorded a broad and liberal treatment,
and that subject to certain specific limitations, discovery is to be allowed as to any matter that is relevant to the subject matter of the action.
Despite this liberal policy, Movants argue that the subpoenas should be quashed under those provisions of Rules 26 and 45 which state that such action may be taken by the Court where the subpoenas would cause undue "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden" or are "unreasonable and oppressive."
The Court does not find the subpoenas so unreasonable or oppressive as to justify the action requested by the Movants. Under the theory that relevance is not to be measured by the precise issues framed by the pleadings, but by the general relevance to the subject matter,
it would be difficult indeed for the Court to find that none of the material requested by the parties is relevant, particularly at this stage of the proceeding. Further, it is well established that if the requested material is relevant, discovery should be allowed without regard to admissibility at trial.
The fact that the materials requested cover an extended period of time and are voluminous will not render the subpoenas invalid,
especially in view of the fact that the subpoenas are limited to a reasonable period of time and specify with reasonable particularity the subjects to which the requested materials relate.
It is therefore evident that application of these general principles precludes the granting of relief to Movants under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
B. The Unique Circumstances and Great Public Importance of These Cases Compel a Finding by the Court That Movants Are Entitled to At Least a Qualified Privilege Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Because of its finding that the subpoenas in question are not unreasonable or oppressive under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court is directly confronted with a constitutional issue of the first magnitude. What is involved here is the right of the press to gather and publish, and that of the public to receive news, from widespread, diverse and ofttimes confidential sources. Movants have supplemented the record with numerous and persuasive affidavits of prominent figures of the Fourth Estate which assert that the enforcement of these subpoenas would lead to the disclosure and subsequent depletion of confidential news sources without which investigative reporting would be severely if not totally hampered. The competing consideration is the right of litigants to procure evidence in civil litigation. Underlying that right is the basic proposition that the public "has a right to every man's evidence" and that, in examining any claim of exemption from the correlative duty to testify, there is the "primary assumption that there is a general duty to give what testimony one is capable of giving and that any exemptions which may exist are distinctly exceptional, being so many derogations from a positive general rule."
These cases all are exceptional on the facts alleged and thus require particular scrutiny by the Court.
The Court is well aware that other courts in "civil" and "criminal" cases,
and the Supreme Court of the United States in a landmark case involving a newsman's testimony before a grand jury,
have been reluctant in the absence of a statute to recognize even a qualified newsman's privilege from disclosure of confidential news sources. In view of the decisions and circumstances present in the above-cited cases, it is instructive to note what is not present in the instant cases. These cases are not "criminal" cases, and even though they are primarily actions for money damages, their importance transcends anything yet encountered in the annals of American judicial history. Moreover, Movants are not parties to the actions, but have merely been called to testify and produce documents at deposition. The parties on whose behalf the subpoenas were issued have not demonstrated that the testimony and materials sought go to the "heart of [their] claim," as was found to be true in the case of Garland v. Torre.
What is ultimately involved in these cases between the major political parties is the very integrity of the judicial and executive branches of our government and our political processes, for without information concerning the workings of the government, the public's confidence in that integrity will inevitably suffer.
This is especially true where, as here, strong allegations have been made of corruption within the highest circles of government, and in a campaign for the Presidency itself. This Court cannot blind itself to the possible "chilling effect" the enforcement of these broad subpoenas would have on the flow of information to the press, and so to the public.
This Court stands convinced that if it allows the discouragement of investigative reporting into the highest levels of government no amount of legal theorizing could allay the public suspicions engendered by its actions and by the matters alleged in these lawsuits.
It is of critical importance in these cases to note and bear in mind that the main purpose of the judicial system -- a search for the truth -- must be flexible in order to accommodate itself to the needs of our times and the needs of an individual case. The cases at bar are unprecedented in the annals of legal history and have raised more than one issue of first impression. In such circumstances, the Court is called upon to fashion a remedy consistent with the ends of justice. In proceeding to fashion a remedy in the instant cases, the Court remains in full accord with the language of Mr. Justice Powell's concurring opinion in Branzburg v. Hayes, in which he stated:
"The asserted claim to privilege should be judged on its facts by the striking of a proper balance between freedom of the press and the obligation of all citizens to give relevant testimony. . . . The balance of these vital constitutional and societal interests on a case-by-case basis accords with the tried and traditional way of adjudicating such questions."