Posts from December 2008.
Posted in Defamation

Vicki Iseman, a Washington lobbyist, yesterday filed a defamation action against The New York Times, four of the newspaper's reporters, its executive editor, and the chief of its Washington bureau in federal court in Richmond, Virginia.  In her complaint, she contends that a February 2008 article published in the Times that linked her to Senator and then-Presidential candidate John McCain was susceptible of defamatory meaning.  She seeks to recover $27 million in damages for the alleged defamation.

Iseman alleges the article, through its literal words and by implication ... Read More 

In a prior post, we described the contours of the fair report privilege.  This common-law privilege protects journalists from liability for republishing factual errors that appear in official records -- such as a police report, government press release, or criminal indictment -- or that are made during official proceedings -- such as a city council meeting or criminal trial.  So long as the journalist provides a substantially accurate account of the record or proceeding, she will not face liability if the record or proceeding described contains an error that someone contends is ... Read More 

Although no reporter or news organization wants to find itself defending against a defamation claim, the reality is that plaintiffs have and will continue to file claims alleging injury to their reputations based on media reporting.  Fortunately, media defendants faced with defamation claims enjoy a number of privileges and defenses that protect the “breathing space” the First Amendment requires.  One such protection recognized in a number of jurisdictions is called the “fair report” privilege.

As formulated in the Restatement (Second) of Torts, § 611 (1977),

[t]he ...

A reporter for the Detroit Free Press took an unusual approach last week in an effort to protect the identity of a confidential source -- he invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

This dispute arose in the context of a civil lawsuit brought by former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino in federal court in the District of Columbia.  Convertino led the prosecution of the so-called "Detroit Sleeper Cell" defendants shortly after September 11, 2001; however, the Justice Department subsequently removed Convertino from his post and asked that the ... Read More 

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald released a sealed indictment and supporting affidavit against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Tuesday after Blagojevich was arrested on a wide range of corruption and "pay-to-play" charges.  Public attention has focused thus far on the first count, which accuses Blagojevich of attempting to leverage his power to appoint President-Elect Barack Obama's successor to the U.S Senate into cash and campaign funds, a choice appointment of his own, or a substantial salary for himself or his wife on a foundation or corporate board.

Fitzgerald called ... Read More 

Rachel Donadio wrote recently about Italy's litigious Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.  In three separate stints as Prime Minister, Berlusconi has himself instituted at least two defamation lawsuits against his critics, and a third has been brought by a close associate.

These lawsuits include an action Berlusconi brought in Italy in July 2001 against the British weekly publication The Economist.  The Economist has been a frequent critic of Berlusconi's administrations, and his lawsuit centered upon an article about Berlusconi that appeared in an April 2001 issue of ... Read More 

The 2008 general election has been hard-fought on the federal and state levels.  We previously reported about the institution of legal actions in two hotly contested U.S. Senate races, and we provided an update on those matters.  In addition to federal races, claims have also been filed in state races, as well. 

For example, on October 20, 2008, fifteen days before the general election, a candidate for a local judicial office in Ohio filed a complaint for defamation against a radio broadcaster related to an editorial broadcast over the air and posted on the Internet in which the broadcaster ... Read More 


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