Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Wisconsin governor's invite-only press briefings

The governor's office has argued that it can exclude news operations with ties to partisan organizations

Updated: December 14, 2021 - 1:46pm

Wisconsin’s governor can continue to exclude certain news organizations from specific news conferences, following a recent Supreme Court decision declining to take up a legal challenge to the policy. 

The high court declined Friday to take the case submitted by John J. MacIver Institute that challenges Democrat Gov. Tony Evers' invite-only press briefings.

MacIver originally sued in 2019, arguing Evers violated the First Amendment by excluding reporters from an annual budget briefing.

The governor's office has argued that it can exclude news operations with ties to partisan organizations.

A federal court ruled for the governor last year. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago affirmed that ruling  in August.

“We cannot fathom the chaos that might ensue if every gubernatorial press event had to be open to any ‘qualified’ journalist with only the most narrowly drawn restrictions on who might be excluded,” the appeals court said at the time.

Last week's decision from the Supreme Court means that those lower court rulings are in place.

MacIver said the issue has always been the idea of allowing elected leaders to decide which news outlet deserves access.

“Politicians should not censor their news coverage by hand-picking who covers them,” Attorney Daniel Suhr, with the Liberty Justice Center, said about the case.

The MacIver News Service is one of several news organizations that covers the Wisconsin Capitol and politics in the state. It has ties to the MacIver Institute, which is a think tank based in Madison.