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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  period such as Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817 (1974) , Saxbe v. Washington Post Co., 417 U.S 843 (1974) and Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1 (1978) 28 or Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1 (1965) (upholding federal ban of travel to Cuba)—perhaps the starkest (and most antagonistic in tone) declaration of the Supreme Court that First Amendment protections need be read narrowly is Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972), in which Justice White unequivocally rebuked any contention that the Constitution confers implicit new rights upon the public in general and the press in particular. In his opinion, White steadfastly resisted all efforts to extend the meaning of the First Amendment to protect reporters from divulging the names of confidential sources in grand jury proceedings. Noting that journalists have no more (or no fewer) rights under the First Amendment than any other citizen, White concluded that the government interest in the efficient and effective operation of the grand jury system trumped the "consequential but undefined" burden placed on newsgathering activity. In one of those sublime instances of irony that legal researchers so often encounter in perusing a large body of case law, Justice Stewart—who, by the lights of fervent First Amendment proponents, acquits himself extremely well with his ringing dissent in Branzburg—actually becomes (a few years later) one of the most vocal advocates for limiting that amendment’s scope in regard to affording greater untrammeled access to matters under the government’s aegis: The press is free to do battle against secrecy and deception in government. But the press cannot expect from the Constitution any guarantee that it will succeed. There is no constitutional right to have access to particular government information or to require openness from the bureaucracy. The public’s interest in knowing about its government is protected by the guarantee of a free press, but the protection is indirect. The Constitution itself is neither a Freedom of Information Act not an Official Secrets Act. The Constitution, in other words, establishes the contest, not its resolution. 29 28 Brooking no equivocation, Chief Justice Burger lays the matter squarely on the table by proclaiming that “(n)either the First Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment mandates a right of access to government information or sources of information within the government’s control” ( 438 U.S. 1, 15). 29 Potter Stewart, "Or of the Press," 26 Hastings L.J. 631, 636 (1975).

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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period such as Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817 (1974) , Saxbe v. Washington Post Co., 417 U.S 843 
(1974) and Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1 (1978)
  or Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1 (1965) (upholding 
federal ban of travel to Cuba)—perhaps the starkest (and most antagonistic in tone) declaration of the 
Supreme Court that First Amendment protections need be read narrowly is Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 
665 (1972), in which Justice White unequivocally rebuked any contention that the Constitution confers 
implicit new rights upon the public in general and the press in particular.   In his opinion, White 
steadfastly resisted all efforts to extend the meaning of the First Amendment to protect reporters from 
divulging the names of confidential sources in grand jury proceedings.   Noting that journalists have no 
more (or no fewer) rights under the First Amendment than any other citizen, White concluded that the 
government interest in the efficient and effective operation of the grand jury system trumped the 
"consequential but undefined" burden placed on newsgathering activity.
         In one of those sublime instances of irony that legal researchers so often encounter in perusing a 
large body of case law, Justice Stewart—who, by the lights of fervent First Amendment proponents, 
acquits himself extremely well with his ringing dissent in Branzburg—actually becomes (a few years 
later) one of the most vocal advocates for limiting that amendment’s scope in regard to affording greater 
untrammeled access to matters under the government’s aegis:
The press is free to do battle against secrecy and deception in government. But the 
press cannot expect from the Constitution any guarantee that it will succeed. 
There is 
no constitutional right to have access to particular government 
information or to 
require openness from the bureaucracy.  The public’s interest in knowing 
about its 
government is protected by the guarantee of a free press, but the 
protection is indirect.  
The Constitution itself is neither a Freedom of Information Act 
not an Official Secrets 
Act.  The Constitution, in other words, establishes the contest, 
not its resolution. 
28
 Brooking no equivocation, Chief Justice Burger lays the matter squarely on the table by proclaiming that 
“(n)either the First Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment mandates a right of access to government information 
or sources of information within the government’s control” (
438 U.S. 1, 15).
29
 Potter Stewart, 
"Or of the Press," 26 Hastings L.J. 631, 636 (1975).


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