The U.S. Marshals Service has released, with minor redactions, the report on its internal investigation of what it calls the “Hattiesburg Incident” of April 7, 2004. That’s when a deputy U.S. marshal in the Mississippi city directed two local reporters who were covering a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to erase their recordings of the speech, believing she was enforcing the justice’s policy against recording his public talks.
When the marshal’s actions were reported in the media at the time, Scalia took the unusual step of apologizing to the reporters by letter, taking blame for the marshal’s actions. Scalia said he had failed to clarify his policy, which is to allow print reporters to record his talks for note-taking purposes, not for broadcast. But the reporters’ employers, The Associated Press and the Hattiesburg American, lodged protests with the service and complained that the journalists’ First Amendment rights in a public forum had been violated. The internal investigation ensued, after which the service’s lawyers concluded no laws had been violated. At first the marshal’s service withheld the investigative report from public view, but the Hattiesburg paper sued and the agency relented.
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