New Hampshire v. GibsonAnnotate this Case
The State appealed a superior court order granting news reporter Nicholas Reid’s (Reid) motion to quash the State’s subpoena compelling him to testify against defendant Carl Gibson. Republican candidate Yvonne Dean-Bailey (Dean-Bailey) was running in a May 19, 2015 special election for State Representative from Rockingham County District 32. On May 14, 2015, the defendant, a volunteer for the opposing Democratic Party candidate, allegedly issued a false press release stating that Dean-Bailey was dropping out of the race. Reid, who was covering the special election as a reporter for the Concord Monitor, received the e-mail with the attached press release and became suspicious because of the form and content of the e-mail and attached file. He contacted a representative of the New Hampshire Republican Party who was unaware of Dean-Bailey withdrawing from the race. Reid then wrote a short article for the May 15, 2015 issue of the newspaper titled “Email claiming Dean-Bailey is conceding called a hoax.” Reid reviewed the metadata of the press release which lead to him finding a way to contact Gibson. Based upon that conversation and his conversations with other sources, Reid wrote a second article published in the Concord Monitor on May 16 under the headline, “Man who sent hoax email from GOP candidate had ‘too many beers’ before ‘prank.’” Defendant was ultimately charged with “False Documents, Names or Endorsements,” attempted voter suppression, and voter suppression. Reid was served with a subpoena requiring him “to testify what [he] know[s] relating to a criminal matter to be heard and tried between the State . . . and Carl Gibson.” Reid moved to quash the subpoena on the ground that it violated his “newsgathering privilege” under Part I, Article 22 of the New Hampshire Constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. On appeal, the State argued that the trial court erred “by expanding the scope of the news-gathering privilege to include non-confidential sources.” Although Reid based his motion to quash upon the ground that it violated his newsgathering privilege under the State and Federal Constitutions, the trial court based its decision solely upon the State Constitution. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held the trial court’s determination was erroneous, and remanded for the trial court to consider, in the first instance, Reid’s federal constitutional claim.