Justice Breyer Grants BC Researchers Stay in IRA Recording Case

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 19, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Two Boston College researchers caught a break on Wednesday when Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer extended a previous stay he had granted of a district court order demanding the researchers’ taped recordings with former Irish Republican Army members, reports the Boston Globe.

The researchers, who have spent the last year trying to convince federal courts that they should be able to withhold oral history recordings from international authorities, now have until November 16 to ask the Supreme Court to review their case.

In January, the First Circuit Court of Appeals blocked an order from a lower court judge requiring Boston College to turn over documents pertaining to a former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army to the United Kingdom. In July, the same appellate court ruled that Boston College to hand the recordings over to British authorities, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

A Boston College lawyer appeared before the First Circuit again in September to argue that the school should not be ordered to give police in Northern Ireland recordings of interviews with former IRA members, reports The Associated Press.

Based on a treaty with the United States that requires both countries to furnish materials that would aid in criminal inquiries, the United Kingdom had originally subpoenaed the college for the recordings of interviews that former IRA member Dolours Price gave to a Boston College oral history project. British authorities wanted the documents as evidence in their investigations of crimes during the sectarian fight for control of Northern Ireland.

Boston College, however, argued that the interviews were supposed to be kept secret until the subject's death.

U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young ordered the school to turn over the documents. Though U.S. officials received the documents on Dec. 30, the First Circuit's order to stay parts of Judge Young's decision put a temporary hold on the federal action to submit the documents to British authorities.

Citing the Supreme Court's Branzburg v. Hayes decision, (holding the reporters may not use the First Amendment as a defense against testifying before a grand jury), the First Circuit ordered the school to release the recording in July.

If the Court agrees to hear the case, it will be the Supreme Court's first reporter's privilege review since Branzburg.

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