Judge: Maryland Gov. Must List Employees Banned from Talking to 'Sun'

By: Joe Strupp A judge today directed Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich's office to provide a list of state employees who are barred from talking to two writers from The Sun of Baltimore, as he considers whether to order the governor to lift the two-month-old ban.

Judge William D. Quarles of U.S. District Court in Baltimore made the request during a hearing on a motion filed by the newspaper to have the ban temporarily lifted, according to Sun Editor Tim Franklin, who attended the hearing. Franklin said the judge postponed any ruling until the list is provided, giving the governor's office one week to comply.

"It looks like we are at least two weeks out from a ruling," said Franklin, noting that the Sun would then have five days to respond to the governor's list. "The hearing went on for more than an hour, and it was obvious that the judge had done his homework." The editor called the hearing "a straight-up constitutional argument by both sides with no witnesses."

Attorneys for The Sun, a Tribune Co. paper, filed a motion several weeks ago seeking the temporary injunction against the ban issued by Ehrlich on Nov. 18., which bars state employees from speaking with Sun state house bureau chief David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker.

The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the Sun last month that challenges the ban, claiming it is unconstitutional. Quarles is hearing the case.

The Sun's motion follows one filed on Dec. 27 by the Maryland Attorney General's Office, which is handling the case for Ehrlich, seeking to dismiss the case. Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Peltzman, one of the lawyers handling the case for the governor, did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

The Sun filed the motion after recent talks with Ehrlich's office about the ban failed to resolve the situation. The issue became even more contentious earlier this month when Ehrlich barred Nitkin from attending two of his press events.

Both sides met as recently as Thursday, Franklin said, but came to no new agreement. The governor met privately with Franklin, Publisher Denise Palmer, and several newsroom leaders on Dec. 17, but reached no settlement then.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here