AP reports:

A small central Kansas police department is facing a torrent of criticism for raiding a local newspaper’s office and the home of its owner and publisher, seizing computers and cellphones, and, in the publisher’s view, stressing his 98-year-old mother enough to cause her weekend death. Several press freedom watchdogs condemned the Marion Police Department’s actions as a blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution’s protection for a free press. The Marion County Record’s editor and publisher, Eric Meyer, worked with his staff Sunday to reconstruct stories, ads and other materials for its next edition Wednesday, even as he took time in the afternoon to provide a local funeral home with information about his mother, Joan, the paper’s co-owner.

The raids occurred in a town of about 1,900 people, nestled among rolling prairie hills, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City, making the small weekly newspaper the latest to find itself in the headlines and possibly targeted for its reporting. Last year in New Hampshire, the publisher of a weekly newspaper accused the state attorney general’s office of government overreach after she was arrested for allegedly publishing advertisements for local races without properly marking them as political advertising. In Las Vegas, former Democratic elected official Robert Telles is scheduled to face trial in November for allegedly fatally stabbing Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German after German wrote articles critical of Telles and his managerial conduct.

Pomona alum Judd Legum:

The search and seizure of journalistic work product is generally prohibited by federal law. The Privacy Protection Act states, “it shall be unlawful for a government officer or employee, in connection with the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense, to search for or seize any work product materials possessed by a person reasonably believed to have a purpose to disseminate to the public a newspaper, book, broadcast, or other similar form of public communication.” The only exception is “there is probable cause to believe that the person possessing such materials has committed or is committing the criminal offense to which the materials relate.” A search warrant signed by Magistrate Judge Laura Viar stated she determined there was probable cause that the Record and its reporters were violating the Kansas law prohibiting identity theft.  It is improbable that the Record or any of its reporters were engaged in identity theft. The Kansas law “obtaining, possessing, transferring, using, selling or purchasing any personal identifying information” with the intent to “defraud that person” or “misrepresent that person in order to subject that person to economic or personal hard.” Here, the Record was engaged in reporting.  “Newsroom raids in this country receded into history 50 years ago,” John Galer, the chairperson of the National Newspaper Association, said. “For a newspaper to be intimidated by an unannounced search and seizure is unthinkable in an America that respects its First Amendment rights.”