In response to a defamation claim in Georgia, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg argued that a New York State privilege should immunize him from liability for statements he made in the course of his official duties. While the public official privilege in New York is absolute, public officials in Georgia only enjoy a qualified privilege.
In May of 2006, Bloomberg filed a lawsuit against 27 gun shops from across the nation, including Adventure Outdoors, which then sued Bloomberg for defamation based on statements he made in reference to that suit. When he announced the suit, Bloomberg classified the defendant gun shops as “a group of bad apples who routinely ignore federal regulations.”
Bloomberg’s argument is worth tracking because it could have significant impact on the media. Journalists receive different protections in each state – for instance, not all states recognize the fair reporting privilege – and this case could go a long way in providing some predictability as to whether journalists will be able to call on their home state protections if they are hailed into court in another state.