Judge blocks KTRK report on evangelist

Lawyers claim use of document violates privileges

Houston Chronicle/March 2, 2005
By Roma Khanna

Lawyers representing KTRK Television are seeking to overturn a Harris County judge's order temporarily barring the station from broadcasting information about a renowned televangelist, calling it an "intolerable" violation of the First Amendment.

Channel 13 reporter Ted Oberg interviewed the founder of Trinity Foundation, a nonprofit that investigates televangelists, in preparation for two stories about Benny Hinn, leader of the World Healing Center Church who recently held a two-night crusade at the Toyota Center. Through Trinity, Oberg obtained a 15-page document from the law firm that represents Hinn's church.

Before the second story aired on Feb. 24, the firm, Brewer, Anthony, Middlebrook and Dunn, convinced state District Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod to sign a temporary restraining order to prevent KTRK from broadcasting any information from the document.

"The law firm's right to maintain its confidential attorney-client privilege ... outweighs the right or need of the defendants to publish or make use of the (document)," read the order Elrod signed following a hearing. KTRK's attorney said they were unaware of the hearing.

State District Judge Kent Sullivan had been scheduled to weigh permanent action on the case March 7, but, at KTRK's request, will have a hearing on the matter today.

KTRK attorney Chip Babcock called the order an unconstitutional attempt to prevent the broadcast of information.

J. Christopher Reynolds, attorney for the law firm, said the documents should be protected by attorney-client privilege.

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