Posts from February 2009.

In a new twist in a matter we have been following closely, a federal judge in Michigan issued a written ruling today ordering Detroit Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter to sit for a second deposition.  The judge released his decision just over two weeks after conducting a hearing on a motion to hold Ashenfelter in contempt for refusing to testify at his deposition in a civil lawsuit about a confidential government source who divulged information to him about the plaintiff.

As we first reported in December, this case is particularly interesting because Ashenfelter invoked the ... Read More 

Posted in Defamation

We previously reported that Vicki Iseman, a Washington lobbyist, filed a defamation lawsuit in December against the New York Times over an article published during the 2008 presidential campaign.  In particular, Iseman contended in her complaint that the article falsely implied that she and then-candidate John McCain had carried on an illicit and inappropriate romantic relationship while Iseman worked for clients before a Senate committee chaired by McCain.

Yesterday Iseman and the Times announced that her claims had been resolved and the lawsuit dropped.  The terms ... Read More 

Posted in Shield Laws

After a number of years in which proposed federal shield statutes have stalled in Congress, news media interests are optimistic that this time will be the charm.  Last week bills were introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that would create a qualified privilege for journalists subject to federal subpoenas akin to the protections journalists currently have under many state shield statutes.

Dubbed the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2009," Senators Specter, Schumer, Lugar, and Graham introduced S. 448 last Friday.  The bill mirrors H.R. 985, which was also ... Read More 

As we reported in December, reporter David Ashenfelter of the Detroit Free Press refused to answer questions about a confidential source during his deposition in a civil lawsuit.  The move was noteworthy because Ashenfelter, who was not a party in the lawsuit, invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in refusing to give testimony.  His earlier attempt to protect his source under the First Amendment had been rejected by the federal judge presiding over the case.

The grounds for Ashenfelter's invocation of the Fifth Amendment ... Read More 

Posted in Internet

 A bill introduced this session in the North Carolina General Assembly would take the regulation of speech on the Internet in a troubling new direction.  Indeed, the negative response to Senate Bill 46, introduced by Senator Steve Goss, has spanned the political spectrum, ranging from North Carolina's Civitas Institute, which termed it the "bad bill of the week," to the BlueNC blog.  The bill has several components.

First, the bill would criminalize defamatory statement made over the Internet.  In particular, the bill declares it to be "unlawful for any person ... Read More 

A few months ago, we reported about access to search warrant materials and the Eve Carson case in North Carolina.  In the Carson case, the trial court released the search warrant materials under the common-law right of access once the police investigation of Carson’s death had been completed. 

In November 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recognized a qualified First Amendment right of access to search warrant materials related to the completed 2001 anthrax attack investigations.  Specifically, the district court ordered search warrants materials ... Read More 

High-profile criminal investigations and trials frequently set the stage for conflict between the news media, law enforcement agencies, and criminal defendants.  While law enforcement reasonably wishes to preserve its ability to successfully investigate and prosecute the case, the media reasonably desires to engage in constitutionally protected newsgathering activities and inform the community about those activities.  Of course, the criminally accused want to protect their constitutional right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.  One of the issues over which the ... Read More 

Posted in Defamation

On January 29, 2009, a panel of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, reversed a trial court’s order denying a motion to dismiss a plaintiff’s libel complaint, holding that the allegedly libelous statements constituted non-actionable opinion.  A copy of the decision is linked here.

In Bonanni v. Hearst Communications, Inc., No. 505007 (N.Y. App. Jan. 29, 2009), the plaintiff, a member of the City of Albany Police Department, sued the owner of the Times Union newspaper (actually the Hearst Corporation, not Hearst Communications) over the content of two articles that ... Read More 


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