Attorneys for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. asked a federal court yesterday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by The Sun over the governor's order banning state employees from speaking with two writers at the paper.

The motion to dismiss, filed by Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., says The Sun failed to demonstrate in its lawsuit how the ban violates the First Amendment. The motion says the amendment is mainly concerned with publishing news, and that protections on gathering news are limited.

"The Sun's claim boils down to an assertion that two of its employees have a constitutional right to have State employees return telephone calls - a premise unsupported by any First Amendment jurisprudence," the motion said.

After a meeting of Ehrlich and top Sun executives Dec. 17, both sides said they had made progress toward a resolution. The governor's press office did not return calls late yesterday seeking comment on the motion.