Federal judge quashes subpoena for Kansas bookstore's sales records
The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Kan. The Drug Enforcement Administration's
attempt to get some sales records from a northeast Kansas bookstore has been
denied by a federal judge.
In September the DEA issued a subpoena for the records from one of the
Borders stores in suburban Johnson County. The subpoena was quashed in a
one-paragraph order issued Nov. 28 by U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum.
Records of the case are sealed, lawyers for Borders confirmed that
Lungstrum had granted their motion.
"Borders is very gratified that its First Amendment rights and those
of its customers have been vindicated," said Jerry Wolf, one of Borders'
lawyers. "We're pleased with the result."
The case was filed under seal to avoid compromising a continuing grand
jury investigation. It isn't known whether the subpoena for the Borders store
was for the purchase receipts of one customer or several.
Booksellers and civil liberties groups were concerned about the case's
First Amendment and privacy implications. Several bookseller groups, including
the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the National
Association of College Stores, had filed briefs urging the court to quash the
"It's very significant that the judge recognized and reaffirmed what
bookstores and associations were arguing, which is that there is a First
Amendment right involved here," said Theresa Chmara, a Washington, D.C., lawyer
who filed one of the briefs on behalf of several bookseller groups.
"Here we have a situation where we don't know a lot of facts but where
it's clear law enforcement was trying to say that, because someone purchased a
book, that will help prove they committed a crime," Chmara said. "And while
there's no absolute privilege that (law enforcement) can never get access to
what you're reading, it's certainly hard to envision a situation where you're
thought to have committed a crime based on the books you've bought."
David Horowitz, executive director of the Media Coalition, a New York
trade association that represents media producers, distributors and retailers,
said: "The concern is with the chilling effect on book purchasers and
booksellers if there's a real fear your book records will become public."
During the investigation of President Clinton's relationship with
former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, independent counsel Kenneth Starr
subpoenaed nine months of records from a Washington bookstore to find out what
books Lewinsky had purchased.
A judge ruled that the request
was too broad, and later
Lewinsky agreed to cooperate with Starr in return for immunity from
Another case still pending in Colorado stems from a March police raid
at a suspected methamphetamine laboratory in a suburban Denver trailer
The police found two books, Advanced
Techniques of Clandestine Psychedelic and Amphetamine
Manufacture and The Construction and
Operation of Clandestine Drug Laboratories. In the trash outside
they found a mailing envelope indicating the books were bought at the Tattered
Cover, an independent Denver bookstore.
Seeking to prove that the person whose name was on the envelope owned
the lab, police got a search warrant and went to the Tattered Cover seeking
sales receipts over a 30-day period involving one of the suspects.
After the bookstore's owner refused to comply, Denver District Judge
J. Stephens Phillips in October ordered the store to give police a
copy of the invoice believed to have been in the envelope. But he turned down
investigators' original request to see all records of what one person bought
during a month's time.
The bookstore has
appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.
Federal grand jury tells Kansas bookstore to hand over customer records
Subpoena came to light when bookseller industry newsletter reported that several groups had filed court papers on Borders' behalf.
Bookstore fights order to turn over sales records
'If what we read today can result in a search warrant tomorrow, then fear replaces freedom,' attorney tells Colorado high court.