Change in Governor’s Ban on Baltimore ‘Sun’ Reporters?

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(AP) Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s lawyers appear to have limited the scope of an order banning state workers from speaking with two reporters, according to court papers.

The lawyers indicated in a memo filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that about 225 senior state officials are covered by the ban.

The original Nov. 18 order said “no one in the Executive Department or Agencies” was to talk to David Nitkin, The (Baltimore) Sun’s state house chief, or Sun columnist Michael Olesker.

But Mr. Ehrlich’s lawyers said in their recent memo that the original order “on its face does not apply” to every state employee. The memo was filed after U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. asked the state to clarify who was subject to the order.

The Sun filed a federal lawsuit in December asking that the order be lifted. The newspaper has until Wednesday to respond to the state’s memo, and Judge Quarles could then issue a ruling.

Sun lawyers have argued that the original banning order has had a chilling effect on virtually all state employees and violated the First Amendment rights of the journalists.

The original order was sent by e-mail to 25 department heads, 65 public information officers and 135 employees on the governor’s State House staff. The recent memo suggested only these 225 workers are subject to the ban.

Sun editor Timothy Franklin called the state’s memo “legal mumbo-jumbo. It’s a tortured definition of who works in the executive branch that is so convoluted that it’s understandable how any state employee could interpret the ban as applying to him or her.”

Mr. Ehrlich’s legal counsel, Jervis S. Finney, declined to comment.

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