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People Ex Rel. Scott v. Silverstein





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. GEORGE J. SCHALLER, Judge, presiding.


This appeal involves one aspect of the long-pending and slow-moving litigation brought by the People of the State of Illinois against the George F. Harding Museum (Museum), and its directors. Another phase of the case was before us in People ex rel. Scott v. Silverstein (1980), 86 Ill. App.3d 605, 408 N.E.2d 243. The instant appeal is by William Currie, a newspaper reporter. George A. Otlewis, a director of the Museum, caused a deposition subpoena to be served upon Currie. The trial court denied Currie's motion to quash the subpoena predicated upon the Reporter's Privilege Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 51, par. 111 et seq.), and upon various constitutional matters. The trial court acted upon the theory that Currie had waived his statutory and constitutional privileges. However, the trial court limited the deposition questioning of Currie to matters which may have been divulged by Currie to plaintiff's attorney, Assistant Attorney General Donald G. Mulack, as reflected in Mulack's discovery deposition previously taken.

Currie had written a number of articles for the Chicago Tribune concerning the subject matter of the principal case. He also covered the ongoing court proceedings. In portions of Mulack's deposition testimony, he stated he had conversations with Currie prior to and after suit was commenced against the Museum and its directors.

On October 21, 1976, Currie wrote an article disclosing that a Museum painting had been sold at auction in New York and that more artifacts were soon to be sold. Currie called Mulack "right after" the article was published. He asked Mulack if he had seen the story. He also "wanted to know if the sale of the assets in New York was legal, could the Museum do it." After this conversation and around the time suit was filed, Currie and Mulack had "regular contacts." Currie provided Mulack with information and also asked him questions. He did "a little of both." This information consisted of the names of some of the individuals Currie contacted in the course of researching his stories. Mulack called these individuals and spoke to them. In addition, Currie gave documents to Mulack including a copy of a voting trust agreement and a 1954 financial statement of the George F. Harding Estate.

Two reporters who had written a story called "State Probes Museums" in The New Art Examiner were also deposed. Both reporters acknowledged talking to Currie about his articles on the Museum while preparing their story. They stated Currie provided them with copies of his stories and referred them to the court file on the case. He did not provide them with his sources of information.

Defendant Otlewis first raises a challenge to our jurisdiction to hear this appeal. He argues the order requiring Currie to appear for a deposition is not a final order and therefore not appealable as of right. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110A, par. 301.) He suggests that only after Currie refuses to obey the instant order and a final order terminating contempt proceedings against him is entered would this court have jurisdiction under Supreme Court Rule 301.

We disagree. The order here involved is a final appealable order under Supreme Court Rule 301. In Laurent v. Brelji (1979), 74 Ill. App.3d 214, 392 N.E.2d 929, defendant appealed from an order of the trial court directing him to comply with an administrative subpoena and to produce records of a former patient and testify at a Civil Service Commission discharge proceeding brought against plaintiff. This court held (74 Ill. App.3d 214, 215-16):

"Generally, an order allowing discovery or directing disclosure of information is considered interlocutory and, therefore, not appealable. A party could, nevertheless, test the validity of such an order by refusing to obey and defending in a contempt proceeding. An order of contempt is clearly appealable. [Citations.]

The absence of an order of contempt in this case, however, does not deprive us of jurisdiction over the matter, since we conclude the order of the circuit court was final and not interlocutory. An order which in substance finally adjudicates the rights of the parties and terminates the litigation is final and appealable. [Citation.] Here, the proceeding before the circuit court was a separate, independent action. [Citation.] After the court ordered the recusant witness to testify and produce the records, the proceeding before it was terminated."

• 1 In the instant case, "[t]he order of the court finally determined the rights of the parties before it and terminated the litigation" (Laurent, 74 Ill. App.3d 214, 216), between Currie and defendant Otlewis as regards the deposition subpoena. The order was thus final and appealable.

Otlewis also contends "the stay of the order was improper since it was pursuant to Section

of the Reporter's Privilege Act and not Supreme Court Rule 305 [Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110A, par. 305]."

We need not address this issue. Supreme Court Rule 305(b)(1), (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110A, par. 305(b)(1)), dealing with stays of nonmoney judgments and orders, was fully complied with.

On the merits, Currie contends he did not waive his statutory or constitutional privilege and defendant did not meet the requirements of the Reporter's Privilege Act for divestiture of the privilege. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 51, par. 117.) Defendant Otlewis concedes he did not meet these requirements of the Act. However, he contends the trial court's ruling was proper because Currie waived any ...

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