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Monday, December 12, 2011

No ‘Shield Law’ In Vermont For Any Media ...But There Will Be

No ‘Shield Law’ In Vermont For Any Media

...But There Will Be

By Dell Hill

Call it one of the hazards of publishing a blog and tending to same as the sole “proprietor”.  A one-man gang.  The chief, cook and bottle washer.

I recently learned that a political blogger lost a quarter of a million dollar civil law suit because her state did not have a “shield law” to protect reporters from revealing confidential (but unnamed) sources.  In essence, the court said “sorry, you’re not covered by this state’s shield law”, as it awarded a king’s ransom to the plaintiff.  

The state in question had a shield law in place, but it was passed before the age of electronic media (the Internet), and the blogger was publishing news items exclusively online.

That piqued my curiosity.  I wondered if I would be protected, should I be challenged in court, to reveal confidential sources of information or risk a contempt citation - and possibly jail - for doing so.  It took about two minutes of research to discover that Vermont is one of ten States that doesn’t have such a law on the books.

Over the weekend, I contacted my State Senator and we discussed this issue in detail.  He agreed that such a law was needed and asked me to help his office get the ball rolling.  I agreed and have spent a goodly portion of today working on that request.

I still have a few rough edges to smooth out, but it’s now coming together.  And I’m now dealing with two more members of state government to dot all of the “i”s and cross all of the “t”s.

Subsequently, the blog has suffered from inattention, but this - in my opinion - is extremely important.  Should I become embroiled in such a criminal or civil court case, it could cost me everything.

I’ll try to keep all y’all posted on what I now call “Dell’s Law” and thank you for your understanding.


  1. Since we are in the same frying pan, let me know if I can help.

  2. I certainly had you in mind, my friend. One thing I'll need is a list of bloggers (political and otherwise)to be used as evidence of need...and possibly to testify at public hearings in Mount Pecular, when the time comes. I'll keep you posted.