A Supreme Court ruling barring disclosure of photographs in the suicide of former White House lawyer Vincent Foster will make it more difficult for the news media and others to monitor government actions, critics say. Speaking for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote sympathetically of the Foster family’s wish to “secure their own refuge from a sensation-seeking culture,” says the Washington Post. The Fosters were backed by Teresa Earnhardt, the widow of race car driver Dale Earnhardt, who has been fighting in Florida courts to block media access to the pictures of her husband’s body after a fatal car crash.
Media associations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, argued that the Foster family’s legitimate privacy interests, if any, were limited. In this case, there is “plainly a public interest here in knowing what the government is up to,” said a media brief to the court.
“The rule the court announced would seem to require a journalist or someone else to come forward with proof of wrongdoing before they get the documents they think or hope will show the wrongdoing,” said Deanne Maynard, a lawyer for the media associations. She noted that the court said evidence of wrongdoing must only be enough to convince a reasonable person of the possibility of government misconduct, a more flexible standard than the Bush administration had advocated.