Court Battles

Photojournalist sues to block subpoena from Jan. 6 committee

A freelance photojournalist filed a lawsuit against the House Jan. 6 committee on Wednesday, seeking to block a subpoena requesting her phone records.

A lawsuit filed by Amy Harris, a photographer from Indiana, says the subpoena served to Verizon seeking some of her phone records is “expansive and invasive” and says the requested information is protected by reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment.

According to the lawsuit, Verizon reached out to Harris on Dec. 2 to let her know the company had received a subpoena from the House select committee seeking subscriber information and call detail records between Nov. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021. Verizon said it intended to comply with the subpoena unless Harris took action to block it.

The lawsuit said that “Harris has a reasonable expectation of privacy in her personal cell phone data” given that she conducted conversations with family and friends in addition to journalistic and “confidential sources.”

“The Verizon Subpoena is overly broad with respect to time frame, and contains no limitations seeking to preserve applicable privileges or prevent violations of Harris’ constitutional rights, including her First Amendment rights as a journalist, her protection under the D.C. Shield law, and her Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks to block the committee from obtaining or reviewing the cellphone records, at least until a court determines whether they should be protected.

Akili-Casundria Ramsess, executive director of National Press Photographers Association, said in a statement that while it “appreciates the crucial mission” of the House Jan. 6 committee, “we believe it is misguided for members to subpoena the phone records of a visual journalist who risked her health and safety to report on and photograph protests on both sides of the political spectrum.”

“Such actions have a chilling effect upon the core First Amendment values critical to the democratic principles the Committee was established to protect and we hope they will seriously reconsider their position in this matter,” Ramsess added.

The Hill has reached out to a lawyer for Harris and the House select committee for comment.

Tags first amendment jan. 6 riot Jan. 6 select committee

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