Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Range Resources Can't Depose Pg Reporters or Obtain Notes, Judge Says

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Range Resources Can't Depose Pg Reporters or Obtain Notes, Judge Says

Article excerpt

A Washington County judge has denied a request by Range Resources Appalachia LLC to subpoena and depose a former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editor and two Post-Gazette reporters who are attempting to unseal a private settlement of a family's health claim against the drilling company.

Range had sought to depose and collect information from Post-Gazette Managing Editor Sally Stapleton, who left the paper at the end of March, and reporters Don Hopey and David Templeton.

The decision, issued Friday by Washington County Common Pleas President Judge Katherine Emery, denied the company's attempt to uncover the reporters' sources and obtain their notes and documents related to the case, saying the newspaper's sources are protected from disclosure by Pennsylvania's Shield Law.

"The Shield Law must be liberally construed in favor of the news media," Judge Emery wrote in her order and opinion. "Under this law, the employees of the newspaper cannot be required to disclose any information that could lead to the disclosure of their sources."

Later she wrote that while circumstances may exist in which the law "may have to yield, those circumstances must be narrowly construed. They are not present at this juncture."

The Post-Gazette also asked Judge Emery to order Range to pay the newspaper's attorneys fees, alleging that the company's attempt to subpoena reporters' documents, notes and deposition testimony was an attempt to "harass and intimidate" reporters, but she denied that request.

The ruling is not appealable.

Judge Emery has scheduled a hearing for 1 p.m. May 28 on the newspaper's petition to intervene and unseal the settlement of a high-profile case brought in 2012 by Stacey Haney and several neighbors. They alleged they were exposed to spills, leaks and air pollutants from Range's "Yeager" well site in Amwell, Washington County, and experienced serious health problems, including a heightened risk of cancer. …

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