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Court to hear arguments on SF reporter

“Tomorrow is a big day.” That’s how freelance journalist Bryan Carmody, who had his electronics confiscated in a widely condemned raid by San Francisco police earlier this month, put it in a Monday tweet. On Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. PT, Judge Samuel Feng of the San Francisco Superior Court will hear two motions…

– The first motion comes from Carmody himself. His lawyer, Thomas Burke, is asking the court to “quash and revoke” the search warrants police used. The motion also asks the court to order police to “return all of the seized property” immediately.

– The second motion comes from the First Amendment Coalition, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. That motion asks the court to unseal the applications for the search warrants in the case. The group says the release of the applications will “shed light on whether police informed” the judges that issued the warrants on whether Carmody “is a journalist, which in turn would make clear whether the judges simply ignored that key fact, or whether they never knew it.”

“We are optimistic…”

On Monday evening I spoke with Carmody about the case. Carmody told me that he thinks he is on “pretty good legal ground” and should prevail on Tuesday. “It appears what [the SF police] did was illegal, and we just want to get that reversed,” he told me. Carmody said that the support he’s received has been “surreal” and that it’s “heartening to see that people are paying attention.”

David Snyder, the executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, also told me that while “it’s always impossible to predict” the outcome of court cases, he believes they have a “very strong legal argument.” He explained that applications for search warrants “are supposed to become public after a warrant is executed” and should have been “made public already.” Snyder concluded to me, “We are optimistic because the law is clearly on our side.”

District attorney says he “can’t imagine” how the search “would be appropriate”

The court hearing comes as San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón questions the appropriateness of the raid. On Monday, Gascón tweeted, “My office has not seen the warrant or the facts upon which it was based, but absent a showing that a journalist broke the law to obtain the information that police are looking for, I can’t imagine a situation in which a search warrant would be appropriate.”

Gascón added that even if a warrant was necessary, the search should have not have been executed “without the use of a special master.” As the San Francisco Chronicle explains, “Special masters are court-appointed attorneys who assist in searches and determine whether the material falls within the scope of a warrant.” The Chronicle points out that police have not said if a special master was used while conducting this search…

>> Related: Candidates running to be the next SF district attorney have also condemned the raid…

Mayor changes tune…

Meanwhile, San Francisco Mayor London Breed — who has received a lot of criticism over the matter — has walked back her previous support for the raid. In a series of tweets on Sunday morning, which did not elicit much attention, Breed tried to distinguish the legality of the raid from its appropriateness.

“And the more we learn, the less appropriate it looks to me,” the mayor tweeted. Breed added, “A free and independent press plays a crucial role in our society, and we have to work harder to honor not only the letter of California’s Shield Law, but also the spirit of it.”

Let’s make sure this story stays in the news

Brian Stelter emails: On Monday night I helped present the Deadline Club’s annual awards in NYC… Maggie Haberman joined me on stage for a dinner conversation… And when I asked about attacks against the press, she immediately brought up the SF case. It has “barely made a blip, nationally,” and that’s a big problem, she said. This case is “chilling.” She’s right, and Yashar Ali expressed a similar concern very well in a op-ed over the weekend. If you missed it, check it out here…


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Read more of Monday’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter… And subscribe here to receive future editions in your inbox…

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