New York, April 2, 2002—CPJ welcomes the recent decision of a U.S. district judge to quash a subpoena served on Dolia Estévez, the Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Mexican daily El Financiero.
Estévez had been ordered to hand over material related to a 1999 news article about the Hank family of Mexico, which has been linked to drug trafficking. The subpoena asked for all research materials used to prepare her 1999 article, including e-mail correspondence, tape recordings, calendar and appointment books, draft articles, and lists of U.S. government contacts.
In his March 19, 2002, decision, Judge Welton Curtis Sewell of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted Estévez’s motion to quash the subpoena, noting that, “the information sought by Plaintiffs appears to be nothing more than a fishing expedition.”
“CPJ welcomes Judge Sewell’s ruling in favor of press freedom,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We sincerely hope the Hank family will halt their attempts to interfere with the First Amendment rights of reporters who are simply doing their job.”
In 1999, El Financiero, The Dallas Morning News, and the weekly magazine Insight on the News, among others, reported on allegations that the Hank family was involved in narcotics trafficking. All the news articles quoted a 1999 report by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), a U.S. federal agency.
In August 2000, the Texas-based Laredo National Bank, of which Carlos Hank Rhon is majority shareholder, and the bank’s CEO, Gary Jacobs, sued academic and author Donald Schulz for allegedly “infiltrating” the NDIC and leaking its report to the press. At the time the articles were published, Schulz was working on a book about links between Mexican politicians and the international drug trade. On January 9 of this year, the bank’s lawyers subpoenaed Estévez in connection with the Schulz case.
In late January, The Dallas Morning News received a subpoena addressed to reporter Tracey Eaton. At around the same time, Insight on the News senior editor Jamie Dettmer was also subpoenaed. Dettmer’s lawyer has sent a letter to the bank’s lawyers objecting to the subpoena.
Mike Raiff of the law firm Vinson & Elkins, counsel for Tracey Eaton and The Dallas Morning News, told CPJ, “We have served our objections to the subpoena, and we have prepared a motion to quash to file with the Dallas federal court, if that becomes necessary.”