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Smith v. Palisades News

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  1. Libel and Privacy

The Reporters Committee and 21 media organizations filed an amicus brief in Smith v. Palisades News, a case before the California Court of Appeal.  The brief was coauthored with attorneys from Davis Wright Tremaine.  Smith, a landlord who sought to lease to marijuana growers, sued Palisades News for defamation and other claims after it published an article about her and a police raid of her property.  The trial court granted in part and denied Palisades News’s anti-SLAPP motion, holding that the defamation claim could proceed.  The amicus brief argues that Smith is a limited purpose public figure who must prove actual malice to succeed on a defamation claim.  In addition, the amicus brief urges the Court to apply the neutral reportage doctrine, which protects news organizations for fairly reporting on public figures and events of pubic interest, even if some factual details are in dispute.  Finally, the amicus brief argues that the wire service defense should shield Palisades News, because it relied on reputable news sources in its reporting and it should not be required to verify each and every fact in a story it relies on.