In upholding ban against 2 journalists, he rules newspaper sought greater access to state officials than that accorded private citizen; Appeal weighed
A federal judge acted today to dismiss a Sun suit challenging on First Amendment grounds an order barring thousands of state employees from contact with two Sun journalists.
U.S. District Court Judge William D. Quarles Jr. said in his order he was dismissing the case because The Sun was seeking more access to government officials than that accorded a private citizen.
"The Sun seeks the declaration of a constitutional right that neither the Supreme Court nor the Fourth Circuit has recognized," said the judge.
Sun editor Tim Franklin said he was disappointed by the decision. He said The Sun was considering the order and weighing a possible appeal.
Asked about the dismissal of the case against him, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he would have no immediate comment because he had not yet had an opportunity to read the decision.
The Ehrlich administration issued the order last November. It said that "no one in the Executive Department or Agencies" of the state government was to talk to Sun State House bureau chief David Nitkin or columnist Michael Olesker.
Ehrlich said the two journalists were not objectively covering his administration.
The Sun filed suit in December asking that the order be lifted, saying it violated the First Amendment rights of the two journalists by denying them the same opportunities to seek information as other news organizations and citizens.
The newspaper subsequently asked Judge Quarles for a preliminary injunction to lift the ban while the newspaper's case against the governor proceeded. The state had asked for the case to be immediately dismissed.
In his decision today, Judge Quarles said The Sun could not demonstrate irreparable harm or the likelihood of success in the case on its merits.
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