Minnesota Reformer, Star Tribune fighting city subpoena

By: - April 13, 2022 4:58 pm

Freelance journalist Linda Tirado was permanently blinded in her left eye after Minneapolis police fired a less-lethal projectile at her. Photo courtesy ACLU of Minnesota.

Minnesota Reformer and the Star Tribune are fighting Minneapolis over the city’s broad subpoenas issued to Reformer deputy editor Max Nesterak and Star Tribune reporter Andy Mannix. 

The subpoenas were issued in a civil case against the city brought by freelance photographer Linda Tirado, who was shot by a foam projectile and blinded in one eye by Minneapolis police while covering the protests after the police murder of George Floyd.

The news organizations recently filed a joint memorandum in federal court to quash the subpoenas of Nesterak and Mannix, which had directed the journalists to appear for depositions and produce documents related to their reporting during the unrest. 

The subpoenas asked for “recordings, emails, texts, and documents in your possession relating to any protests, riots, members of the press, or law enforcement actions between May 26, 2020 and May 31, 2020.” 

In Mannix’s case, the city asked for the rubber bullet that hit him in the thigh. (Nesterak was also struck by a police projectile but was not asked to produce it.)

The news organizations’ lawyers wrote in the filing: “It is more than a little ironic for those same defendants to now use the Court’s subpoena power to strong arm other journalists who have studiously avoided involvement in this and other, similar cases so they can do their jobs without the distraction of litigation and without jeopardizing their professional reputations or the trust of their sources and readers.”


Through a city spokesman, the Minneapolis city attorney declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation. 

The news organizations argue in their filing that the city’s subpoena is tardy, overly broad and a threat to First Amendment rights. 

“The subpoenas tread on Mannix’s and Nesterak’s First Amendment rights to gather and report news free from government interference, they would be improper even if they were timely and narrowly tailored and sought documents and testimony relevant to the issues before the Court. But the subpoenas are none of these things. Rather, they are untimely, incredibly (and admittedly) overbroad, and in no way relevant.”

The filing also alleges that the broad subpoena was an attempt to gain leverage over the reporters so they would appear for the depositions, where the city hoped for favorable testimony. 

The city, the news organizations write, agreed to “drop their document requests to Mannix — including their ludicrous request for the actual, physical ‘projectile’ that hit Mannix — only if he would voluntarily appear to testify.”

The Reformer and Star Tribune attorneys call this offer “bullying” and “the epitome of bad faith (that) cannot go unchecked.” 

The two news organizations are seeking attorney fees from the city.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children