MEDIA

SCOTUSblog Denied Senate Press Credentials, May Sue

04/16/2014 02:38 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein wrote Wednesday that the Senate Press Galley has denied its application for a press pass and will not renew a credential previously granted to Lyle Denniston, a veteran Supreme Court reporter who writes for the site.

In a post on his site, Goldstein wrote that SCOTUSblog plans to appeal the decision, and if denied, will “litigate the issue.”

The Senate Press Gallery distributes credentials for news outlets covering Congress. The Press Gallery advises the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which is made up of five elected journalists, and the Standing Committee makes the final decision on credentialing.

Siobhan Hughes, a Wall Street Journal reporter and chairwoman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, said, "We're not commenting at this point in time." Laura Lytle, director of the Senate Press Gallery, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Despite winning major journalism awards and becoming a go-to source for comprehensive coverage of Supreme Court decisions, SCOTUSblog has struggled to obtain press credentials.

The Supreme Court has never credentialed SCOTUSblog, although Denniston currently has a credential for his work with Boston public radio station WBUR. For now, SCOTUSblog can request public seats for cases, but cannot send another reporter in Denniston's place. Denniston has covered the Supreme Court for over 50 years, and if he were to retire, SCOTUSBlog would be without anyone with a pass.

In July 2012, Poynter looked at the byzantine credential process and noted that the Supreme Court bases its decision on whether the applicant is already credentialed by the White House or Congress. If SCOTUSblog could secure one of those credentials, the publication might have a better chance of getting the Supreme Court credential.

Joe Keenan, then the director of the Senate Press Gallery, told Poynter in 2012 that SCOTUSblog “failed to show that they were separate from the law firm” where Goldstein and his wife and site co-founder, Amy Howe, practiced.

The Senate Press Galley's guidelines state that applicants "must not be engaged in any lobbying or paid advocacy, advertising, publicity or promotion work" and "must not be involved in prosecuting any claim before Congress or any federal government department."

But in April 2013, the Senate Press Galley granted Denniston a credential to represent SCOTUSblog, and the situation appeared resolved.

Now, a year later, SCOTUSblog finds itself without a Congressional credential, and Goldstein said he isn't clear on what changed.

"We weren’t given a reason for the denial," Goldstein said in an email to The Huffington Post. "I did have a series of calls and emails with the [Senate Press Gallery] director over the past year, in which she asked a variety of questions and raised various concerns. We actually adopted a stronger conflict-related policy to address them -- ie, a rule that not only would a person from the firm not comment on any case in which we are involved, but that no person who reports to me even as a blog employee can do that. But I don’t know their reason for ultimately turning us down."

"As things stand now, we’ll sue," Goldstein said when asked about any plans to litigate.

"That said, things could change," he continued. "In particular, they might have a compelling reason for denying us a credential that they haven’t given us yet."

This story has been updated with a comment from Siobhan Hughes.

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