Posts from February 2010.
Posted in Public Records

The New York Times ran an interesting report on how the bad economy has impacted newspapers' decisions on whether to litigate public record and access issues.  The bottom line, according to the Times -- while smaller, regional news organizations are scaling back their legal efforts, large national outlets "have been quietly ramping up."

The Times cited in particular Hearst and the Associated Press as two organizations that have been as aggressive as ever in pushing state and federal officials on public record and access issues.  According to the story, both are dealing with tighter ... Read More 

Posted in Public Records

The Associated Press reported this week of efforts underway in several states to limit access to 911 calls under state sunshine laws.  According to the report, legislatures in Alabama, Ohio, and Wisconsin are considering bills that would pull back from the traditional availability of 911 recordings.  Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wyoming currently exempt 911 calls from the operation of public records statutes.

In Alabama, HB 159 passed the Alabama House earlier this month.  The bill, if enacted, would prevent the disclosure of 911 calls to the public without a prior order ... Read More 

Posted in Defamation

Earlier this month, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of a defamation action, holding that the filing of the complaint was sanctionable under Rule 11.  In Ward v. Jett Properties, LLC, the plaintiff filed an action pro se, contending that his landlord defamed him in a letter sent to a representative of the homeowners association of the development where the plaintiff lived.

The matter started with a letter the plaintiff sent to the defendant, complaining about various actions by neighboring tenants.  In response, the defendant wrote back ... Read More 

In yet another data point on the status of anonymous Internet speech, a New York judge this week quashed a subpoena seeking the identity of a person who had posted comments on a newspaper website.

We have covered this topic in a number of prior posts, for example here and here, as courts have grappled in the past year with the question of when to enforce subpoenas to media organizations that would compel the identification of an anonymous Internet speaker.  Such subpoenas have been examined both from a First Amendment perspective, in terms of the constitutional right to ... Read More 

The presiding judge closed a hearing Friday on whether to hold Andrew Young and his wife in contempt for failing to turn over a sex tape purportedly showing Rielle Hunter and disgraced former presidential candidate John Edwards consummating their much-publicized affair.  The hearing was held in Chatham County, North Carolina, and it was set in a lawsuit brought by Hunter to recover possession of the tape from Young.  Young, a former aide to Edwards, was apparently part of Edwards's misbegotten scheme to cover up his fathering of a child with Hunter, as Young originally claimed the ... Read More 

Posted in FCC Matters

With the arrival of a new presidential administration, and with the explosive growth of alternative ways for people to get their daily news and opinion, a legal issue once thought settled is again in the headlines.

The “Fairness Doctrine,” first imposed by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949, required television and radio broadcast stations to give reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views on issues of public importance.

In 1987, the FCC ruled that the doctrine violated the First Amendment and did not serve the public interest because it: (1 ... Read More 


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