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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Michigan AG apologizes for subpoenas served on journalists

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he personally apologized to two journalists who were served with subpoenas from his office.

The subpoenas demanded the notes and interviews related to a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of minors in state prisons.

One of the subpoenas was served on Monday on Cynthia Canty, the host of Michigan's Radio's Stateside program.  She had interviewed the attorney filing the lawsuit, Deborah LaBelle, for her show.  The subpoena sought the raw, unedited interview as well as other materials.

The other subpoenas were served on Dana Liebelson of the Huffington Post last week.  Liebelson had interviewed, in prison, two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"It should not have happened," said Schuette in a Thursday evening telephone press conference,  "It won't happen again."

Schuette would not reveal the name of the person responsible for the subpoenas, but said that person had not been fired.

"The credit is a team credit," Schuette said, praising the work of his staff.  "But when a mistake occurs, I bear responsibility.  I'm throwing nobody under the bus, that's not what I do.  This should not have occurred, and as a result there's a change of policy.  And I mentioned that to Cynthia and Dana as well, but in the future, if a subpoena will be issued against a reporter, the only time a subpoena will be issued is if I make the decision myself, period."

Schuette says as far as he is aware, this is the first time since he became attorney general that a member of the media was subpoenaed by his office.

"I understand people's work product, I understand people's confidential sources and unpublished notes, and the responsibility that journalists do in terms of the First Amendment," he said.

Schuette declined to answer a question as to whether the subpoenas had had to go before a judge first before being served.