November 19, 2004

Reason 4 to Pardon Jim Taricani: Hard Cases Make Bad Law

Carroll Andrew Morse

There is a legal maxim that says "hard cases make bad law". This has taken on a new urgency with respect to the Jim Taricani case. As a result of Judge Torres' Thursday ruling, Senator Christopher Dodd from Connecticut has proposed a federal shield law for journalists.

Let me make an important point I haven't yet stated directly. My call for a Presidential pardon of Jim Taricani is in no way based on any concept of special rights for journalists. Journalism, like any profession, makes unique demands on the people who practice it. Those demands in no way release its practitioners from their duties as citizens.

The advent of blogging and electronic publishing blurs the line between who is and who is not a journalist. Perhaps no meaningful line exists. Passing a shield law will invite the abuse of the concept of journalism, encouraging people whose primary goal is to avoid giving testimony to claim they are journalists.

Of course, the President could make this issue go away by pardoning Taricani. And when else will President Bush have an opportunity to do something popular in a blue state, something civil liberties oriented AND something that upstages Christopher Dodd at the same time?

Reason 1: Why Pardoning Taricani is the Right Thing.
Reason 2: Why Pardoning Taricani fits the President's Agenda.
Reason 3: Why Pardoning Taricani is a Teaching Moment.