New York Times Ordered to Return Legal Memos Belonging to James O’Keefe

( – In a nearly unprecedented move that challenges how news outlets are able to use documents that contain sensitive personal information, the New York Times has been ordered to return paper copies of James O’Keefe’s legal memos to him and destroy electronic copies following the publication of a controversial article about how Project Veritas operates in November.

The conservative activist organization, headed by O’Keefe, attempts to expose liberal media bias through techniques said media outlets consider to be misleading. Frustration with how the New York Times has attempted to describe his organization in the past led O’Keefe to seek legal action to regain control of his personal legal memos that the news outlet gained unauthorized access to.

Freedom of the Press Versus Private Documents

Although newspapers often have the right to print any documents they want, including those that may be considered controversial, personal privacy can take precedence under certain circumstances. Supreme Court of Westchester County Judge Charles D. Wood determined that, although Project Veritas has become an organization of public interest in recent months, the legal memos that the New York Times published material from in November are private documents that are considered confidential communication between James O’Keefe and his lawyer. Wood elaborated that the specific content of the legal memos was not a necessary part of the story for the public to have access to.

Ongoing Conflict Between New York Times and Project Veritas

The move is the latest in an ongoing battle between the left-leaning New York Times and the right-leaning Project Veritas over where the line between freedom of the press and personal confidentiality falls. Wood initially issued a temporary order against the New York Times to prevent further publication of private information about O’Keefe or Project Veritas following the publication of November’s controversial article exposing the organization’s efforts, even though the New York Times cited freedom of the press to defend what it considered to be its right to publish the information in the way that it saw fit.

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