NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge has upheld an order preventing The New York Times from publishing documents between conservative group Project Veritas and its lawyer and ruled that the newspaper must immediately relinquish confidential legal memos it obtained.
The decision, Thursday, by State Supreme Court Justice Charles D. Wood in Westchester County, released, Friday, comes in a defamation lawsuit Project Veritas filed against the Times, in 2020.
Months after the lawsuit was filed, the newspaper reported that the US Justice Department was investigating Project Veritas in connection with the theft of a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter. In that story, the Times quoted the memos, leading Project Veritas to accuse the newspaper of violating attorney-client privilege.
Wood upheld his earlier order preventing the Times from further publishing the memos, and also ruled that the newspaper must turn over physical copies of the documents and destroy electronic versions.
The newspaper reported it would appeal the ruling and seek a stay in the meantime. Publisher A.G. Sulzberger decried the ruling as an attack of press freedoms and alarming for “anyone concerned about the dangers of government overreach into what the public can and cannot know.” He also said it risked exposing sources.
“In defiance of law settled in the Pentagon Papers case, this judge has barred The Times from publishing information about a prominent and influential organization that was obtained legally in the ordinary course of reporting,” Sulzberger said in a statement reported by the Times that also asserted there was no precedent for Wood’s decision.
Project Veritas bills itself as a watchdog, often of media. It’s known for using hidden cameras and hiding identities to try to ensnare journalists in embarrassing conversations and to reveal supposed liberal bias.
In a statement, Friday, Project Veritas lawyer Elizabeth Locke hailed the ruling as “a victory for the First Amendment for all journalists and affirms the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship.”
“The New York Times has long forgotten the meaning of the journalism it claims to espouse, and has instead become a vehicle for the prosecution of a partisan political agenda,” Locke said. “Today’s ruling affirms that the New York Times’ behavior was irregular and outside the boundaries of law.”