Matt & Judy 101: Shafer advocates for the advocates

Jack Shafer lawyers along with the lawyers on the Matt & Judy case in today’s Press Box on Slate (“Slate?” “Slate.”), deftly one-upping Floyd Abrams on how the case differs from Branzburg, outlining the new argument in the brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme by counsel for Time‘s Matt Cooper, and arguing just as strenuously why it’s right on the money.

Cooper’s team (headed by former solicitor-general Theodore Olsen) argues that due process demands the defendants be granted access to the secret grand jury evidence (represented by those maddeningly redacted eight pages and the maddeningly silent Robert Novak):

Quite smartly, it asks the Supreme Court to review several precedents that suggest it’s a violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of due process to imprison a witness for contempt of court based on secret evidence that only the judge and the prosecutor know about. “Even in cases involving classified information that directly implicates national security — such as enemy combatant cases — the government has made this information available to defendants or their security-cleared counsel,” the lawyers argue.

This bee was in our bonnet, too, and we’re excited that it’s being addressed (by much better lawyers than us). The issue of journalistic privilege is surely an important one,** but Matt & Judy shouldn’t have to go to jail for it. Hopefully if and when the court elects to resolve the murky issue of journalistic privilege, Matt & Judy will be around to watch it from this side of the orange jumpsuit.

**But that doesn’t mean you should refer to either of them as “Shirley.”