133 F.3d 917 (4th Cir. 1998), 97-1358, Snyder v. Ringgold

Docket Nº:97-1358.
Citation:133 F.3d 917
Party Name:Terrie SNYDER, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Samuel J. RINGGOLD, Defendant-Appellant,and WBAL DIVISION, THE HEARST CORPORATION, Party in Interest.
Case Date:January 15, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 917

133 F.3d 917 (4th Cir. 1998)

Terrie SNYDER, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Samuel J. RINGGOLD, Defendant-Appellant,and

WBAL DIVISION, THE HEARST CORPORATION, Party in Interest.

No. 97-1358.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 15, 1998

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA4 Rule 36 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. Frank A. Kaufman, Senior District Judge. (CA-95-3197-K)

ARGUED: Robert Charles Verderaime, VERDERAIME & DUBOIS, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Jeffrey William

Bredeck, ECCLESTON & WOLF, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF: Thomas J. Althauser, ECCLESTON & WOLF, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

Before LUTTIG and WILLIAMS and MERHIGE, JJ.

PER CURIAM:

OPINION

Plaintiff-appellee, Terrie Snyder, filed a § 1983 claim seeking damages for alleged violations of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by the defendant-appellant, Samuel Ringgold. Plaintiff is a journalist who works in the print and television media. Defendant is the Director of the Public Affairs Division of the Baltimore City Police Department, and is responsible for the dissemination of information from the Department to the media. Plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated her constitutional rights by denying her access to Department information on the same terms that it was made available to other members of the news media. See J.A. at 7-15.

In 1992, Snyder aired a story for WBAL-TV that alleged that the Department might have attempted to cover up a prominent politician's connection to a young murder victim. See J.A. at 35. According to Snyder's affidavit, Ringgold later told Snyder that he believed she had "set him up" for that story, and Snyder then began to experience difficulties in obtaining information from Ringgold. J.A. at 36.

In 1993, the Department instituted a new policy requiring that all journalists obtain all information regarding homicides from a Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Department, rather than directly from homicide detectives. A PIO (Ringgold or one of his staff) would be "on call" to be paged on the weekends to provide information. According to Snyder, after this policy had been in place for several months, Ringgold advised Snyder and her then employer, WBAL-TV, that he was tired of responding to Snyder's weekend pages. Snyder then wrote an article in the City Paper criticizing the new policy regarding the dissemination of information to journalists as an attempt to silence homicide detectives' complaints about Department policy. In that article, Snyder attributed a statement to Ringgold, stated that he claimed it was an off-the-record comment to another reporter (apparently at the assignment desk of WBAL-TV), and then alleged that the other reporter had confirmed that the comment was not, in fact, off-the-record. See J.A. at 16.

Thereafter, on May 31, 1994, Ringgold wrote a letter to the news director for WBAL-TV, stating that the situation regarding Snyder had "become intolerable." He expressed his "outrage[ ] that an off the record comment" he had made to one of WBAL's assignment editors "made its way into a City Paper article written by Terrie Snyder," and stated that, because of the incident, he would "never go off the record with people on [WBAL's] assignment desk" and had ordered his staff to do likewise. J.A. at...

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