Baltimore ‘Sun’ Files Appeal in Battle to Overturn Ehrlich’s Ban

By: Joe Strupp

The Sun of Baltimore on Monday filed an appeal in its lawsuit against Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., one month after a federal judge dismissed the paper’s suit and ruled the governor had the right to ban state employees from speaking to two Sun writers, the paper reported Tuesday.

In a one-page notice, the paper appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. A three-judge panel of the court will hear oral arguments in the case, and an opinion could come with a few months.

Last month, U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. dismissed the Sun’s lawsuit against the governor and refused to lift the ban, now four months old, that targets State House bureau chief David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker.

“We have this terrible precedent that was set by Judge Quarles,” Sun Editor Timothy A. Franklin said in Tuesday’s paper. “We think he ignored the First Amendment arguments in the case and misinterpreted the level of access we’re seeking. We’re not asking for special access. We’re just asking for the same level of access as every other citizen.”

Last November, Ehrlich’s office banned state employees from speaking with Nitkin and Olesker, saying they were “failing to objectively report” on the administration, the paper noted.

The Sun argues that the ban violates the First Amendment rights of the two journalists by denying them the same opportunities to seek information as other news organizations and citizens. A spokeswoman for Ehrlich told the paper the governor’s office had no comment on the appeal.

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