News Release

News Gatherers, Not Carrion Feeders

Media Accompany Police on Raids

Washington, DC (March 24, 1999) -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument today in two companion cases which test the constant tension between individual rights and the public’s right to know, Hanlon v. Berger, 97-1927 and Wilson v. Lane, 98-83. In both of these cases, authorities invited news media to accompany them on “raids,” and the aggrieved citizens later sued, challenging the propriety of media presence when police invade private property. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the plaintiffs and the Fourth Amendment.

NACDL President Larry Pozner issued the following statement from his office in Denver today:

“It’s unseemly for the mainstream press to act like tabloid vultures, devouring whatever leftover scraps of citizens’ dignity might be left after a police raid.

“Moreover, it’s a violation of federal law* for unauthorized persons to be present or assist federal officers during the execution of a search warrant. The First Amendment does not give reporters or news organizations the right to trespass on citizens’ property and in their homes in violation of the privacy rights of all Americans.”

Mr. Pozner’s telephone number is (303) 333-1890. NACDL’s amicus curiae brief was authored by Association member Joshua Dratel, New York City. Mr. Dratel’s telephone number is (212) 732-0707.
* Title 18, Sec. 3105, United States Code provides: “Persons authorized to serve search warrant. A search warrant may in all cases be served by any of the officers mentioned in its direction or by an officer authorized by law to serve such a warrant, but by no other person, except in aid of the officer on his requiring it, he being present and acting in its execution."

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.