The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on Thursday a federal judge's decision rejecting the Post-Gazette's challenge to a state law that prevents reporters and others not involved in voting from entering polling places.
The three appeals judges who heard oral arguments on the case Oct. 24 indicated in a short docket entry that they carefully considered the positions outlined at that time and in written submissions and will issue a full opinion later. They will not overturn U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer's opinion.
"Our plans are to ask the United States Supreme Court to grant certiorari on this issue," which would lead to its review of the case, said attorney Frederick Frank, representing the Post-Gazette.
"We feel that the matter raises a significant constitutional issue, which the United States Supreme Court should address, and has not directly addressed, which is the right of reporters to report on the election process," he added. "Other circuit courts have ruled to the contrary from the 3rd Circuit, and there is a split among the courts of appeals."
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004 found in favor of the Akron Beacon Journal in a case involving media access to polling places.
Judge Fischer on Oct. 9 dismissed the Post-Gazette's lawsuit seeking to overturn parts of a state law that bars anyone except for voters, elections workers and registered poll watchers from coming closer than 10 feet from a polling place entrance.
Reporters have no greater right of access than any other citizen, she found.
Judge Fischer also declined to approve a proposed consent order between the Post-Gazette and the Allegheny County Board of Elections. That order would have allowed reporters to photograph or record people signing in to vote but not while they were actually voting. The judge found that she could not approve an agreement that violated state law.
The Post-Gazette has argued that journalistic access is particularly important Tuesday as the state does a dry run of voter identification requirements.
"I don't see this matter being resolved before this Election Day, which is very disappointing," Mr. Frank said.
Rich Lord: email@example.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.