A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed by a police officer who said he was fired because he gave information to a reporter, handing the media a rare victory in the legal battle over confidential sources.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit came in the case of Michael Andrew, who sued the Baltimore Police Department over the 2003 police shooting of an elderly man. He contended that officials retaliated against him for disclosing details of the investigation to a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, violating his First Amendment right to free speech.
A federal judge in Baltimore threw out the lawsuit, but the Richmond-based 4th Circuit overturned that decision Thursday. In a concurring opinion, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III lamented what he called the decline of investigative reporting and said confidential sources are vital to exposing the inner workings of government -- especially at a time when newspapers are struggling financially.