A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit from a writer who was seeking access to areas in the Illinois House and Senate reserved for the news media.
The lawsuit was filed by Scott Reeder and the Illinois Policy Institute. Reeder is employed by the IPI and is listed as a journalist for the Illinois News Network, a project of the IPI.
Reeder said he was unfairly denied access to press boxes in the House and Senate after lawyers for the two chambers said he worked for a lobbying organization, not an independent news operation. House and Senate rules prohibit lobbyists from the media areas in the chambers. Reeder’s lawsuit, though, said media organizations with lobbyists have been granted access in the past.
The court said it was within the purview of the House and Senate to determine who qualified for access to the press boxes. Reeder said he will appeal the decision.
* However, the judge said he’d be open to reconsideration…
[U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce] wrote he “remains very interested in the motivation behind (the) defendants’ actions regarding Reeder’s access to the press facilities of the Illinois House and Senate,” adding he’ll closely watch the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ interpretation.
“Should (that court) disagree with this court’s determination that absolute legislative immunity applies to this situation and remand the case, this court would welcome the opportunity to explore the motives behind (the) defendants’ decisions and the opportunity to seek answers to the questions discussed in the introduction to this opinion,” Bruce wrote. […]
Reeder insisted the prohibition against lobbying hasn’t been uniformly applied, and that the institute is a “nonpartisan public-policy research and education organization.”
The defendants countered in court filings that federal case law made clear their internal procedural rules involving press credentials “are fully protected against judicial interference by the doctrine of legislative immunity.”
Bruce concurred with the defendants while acknowledging he has lingering questions about the motives for denying Reeder press credentials, wondering chiefly whether such denials are routine or rare and what the legislative review process in such matters involves. Bruce also said he would like to know whether exceptions or waivers are granted to applicants.
* From Reeder’s employer…
“Mike Madigan and John Cullerton claim they have the authority to violate individuals’ rights with impunity when they make decisions on whether to grant press credentials,” said INN attorney Jacob Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center. “They do not. The First Amendment requires that the government provide journalists like Scott Reeder equal access to press facilities, and we will continue the fight for his right to freedom of the press.”