Annette Buchanan Conard, who has been fighting and losing a battle against a contempt of court charge for over a year and a half, said Wednesday she will take her case to the United States Supreme Court.
This came in reaction to the Oregon Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to uphold her conviction for contempt of court for failing to disclose the names of seven students who gave her a story about the use of marijuana on the University campus.
The story appeared in the May 24, 1966 issue of the Emerald, when she had been managing editor.
Mrs. Conard was first brought to court by Lane County District Attorney William Frye, now in private law practice in Eugene, who maintained that her refusal to reveal the names of her news sources constituted withholding necessary information for the prosecution and investigation of narcotics addicts.
Mrs. Conard argues that the constitutional provision for a free press gave her the right to withhold the identity of confidential news sources.
In her appeal to the State Supreme Court, she had the backing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, and Sigma Delta Chi, a professional journalism fraternity.
Commenting on the rejection of her appeal by the court, she said, “I’m disappointed in the court’s decision. I had hoped the court would recognize that there is a potential problem in this case.”
She added: “The need now is urgent for some law or guideline in Oregon. I’ll still work for a privilege law for newsmen because the press of Oregon certainly didn’t benefit from this decision.”
“The district attorneys need guidelines in the area of confidential news sources,” she said, “And despite what they—or some of them—say, the national magazines use confidential sources and don’t run into prosecution here in Oregon.”
Mrs. Conard believes that her points carry from the first and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution, “without special statutes.”
“Oregon got along quite well all these years without specific statutes and apparently there were some unspoken and unwritten agreements that prosecutions wouldn’t follow on the heels of stories using confidential sources.”
However the Supreme Court decision, written by Justice A.T. Goodwin, holds “nothing in the state or federal constitution compels the courts, in the absence of statutes, to recognize such a privilege.”
The decision did say that if the legislature passes a law to provide such immunity, such a statute would be valid.
“Freedom of the press is a right which belongs to the public,” the court said, “It is not the private reserve of those who possess the implements of publishing.”
Frye agreed: “Under the law the court could have done nothing else. The opinion confirms my position that the need to expose evidence of crime is more important to society than freeing news reporters from an obligation to testify in court or before grand juries.”
Mrsl Conard now plans to ask for a writ of certiorari. Under such a writ the high court would call the records of the case up for review.
Her lawyer, Arthur Johnson, said that he would take her case all the way through and was “right in back of her.”