A U.S. District Judge in Michigan has ruled that Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter must testify in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino against his old boss, the DOJ. Ashenfelter has been refusing to testify in depositions regarding confidential DOJ sources who provided him with disparaging information regarding Convertino, which Ashenfelter then published in the Detroit Free Press newspaper. Convertino believes that the DOJ sources violated the Privacy Act when they released confidential information to Ashenfelter, and Convertino filed a motion to compel testimony from the journalist; that motion has been granted.
Ashenfelter claimed that his confidential sources should be protected by Michigan’s journalist "shield law," but U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland did not agree. Cleland’s decision strikes a delicate balance between the First Amendment rights of journalists and the need to protect whistleblowers.