Indiana Photojournalist Sues Jan 6 Panel to Block Intrusive Subpoena

A freelance photographer filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the House Jan.6 committee, seeking to stop a subpoena for her phone records.

Amy Harris, an Indiana photographer, filed a lawsuit claiming that Verizon’s subpoena seeking her phone records was “expansive” and intrusive. She also claims that the First Amendment protects the reporter privilege.

According to the lawsuit Verizon contacted Harris on Dec. 2 to inform her that it had received a subpoena by the House select committee requesting subscriber information and call details records between Nov. 1, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021. Verizon stated that it would comply with the subpoena, unless Harris intervenes.

The lawsuit states that “Harris has a reasonable expectation of privacy in her personal cell phone data.” Aside from her dealings with journalistic and “confidential sources,” the photographer might have conducted conversations with family and friends as well.

“The Verizon Subpoena is overly broad with respect to time frame, and contains no limitations seeking to preserve applicable privileges or prevent violations of Harris’ constitutional rights, including her First Amendment rights as a journalist, her protection under the D.C. Shield law, and her Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit is meant to stop the committee’s access to or review of cellphone records until a court decides whether they should remain protected.

Executive director of National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Akili-Casundria Ramsess, said in a statement that while the group “appreciates the crucial mission” of the House Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection panel. they “believe it is misguided for members to subpoena the phone records of a visual journalist who risked her health and safety to report on and photograph protests on both sides of the political spectrum.”

“Such actions have a chilling effect upon the core First Amendment values critical to the democratic principles the Committee was established to protect and we hope they will seriously reconsider their position in this matter,” Ramsess added.

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