Actual malice

Desmond v. News & Observer

May 21, 2018

The Reporters Committee and a media coalition filed an amicus brief in the North Carolina Court of Appeals in support of the News & Observer's appeal of a $6 million libel verdict. RCFP's brief focuses on the application of the actual malice standard, arguing that requiring proof of actual malice is essential to protecting First Amendment rights and preventing a chilling effect on speech on matters of public concern. The brief also argues that the plaintiff, a public official, did not meet the high burden of proving actual malice by clear and convincing evidence.

Montgomery v. Risen

April 3, 2017

Defendant-Appellee James Risen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, And Endless War, a political critique about the United States government’s response to the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. Plaintiff-Appellant Dennis Montgomery sued Risen and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing for statements made about him in the book, which suggest he is a "con artist" and "fake" who perpetuated “one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history” by convincing the government he developed software that could track hidden messages from terrorists in Al Jazeera broadcasts. Montgomery lost on summary judgment after the court found that he was a limited purpose public figure and that most of the statements at issue in the case amounted to opinion that is not actionable under the First Amendment.

Kelley v. Wren, Sun Publishing

May 6, 2016

The Reporters Committee and others filed a brief in support of a newspaper's request for review to the South Carolina Supreme Court, in a case that turns on what is required to show "actual malice" on the part of a journalist. 

Kelley v. Sun Publishing

June 4, 2015

The Reporters Committee submitted an amicus brief arguing that the trial court had misapplied the "actual malice" standard and not required proof that the reporter knew a statement was false or recklessly disregarded the truth.

Angel v. Winograd

December 21, 2015

Marcy Winograd appealed a California Superior Court’s denial of her anti-SLAPP motion after being sued for allegedly defaming a local petting zoo by writing online articles and publicly protesting what she believed were inhumane conditions at the zoo. The Superior Court found evidence establishing actual malice based on the fact animal control officers found no violations after investigating the zoo and Winograd continued objecting to the zoo conditions, relying on her own personal observations and information from two trusted sources. In an amicus brief, the Reporters Committee and five other media organizations urge the California Court of Appeal to reverse the Superior Court’s unprecedented interpretation of the actual malice standard.

10th Circuit reverses dismissal of 'Dateline' defamation case

Bradleigh Chance | Libel | News | July 14, 2014
July 14, 2014

Last week the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that while NBCUniversal reporters did not violate anyone’s Fourth Amendment rights creating the 2008 Dateline segment titled “Tricks of the Trade,” a lower court will have to review the originally dismissed defamation claims made by an insurance broker featured in the piece.

Tyrone M. Clark and his company, Brokers’ Choice of America, initially sued NBC over video clips recorded with a hidden camera by Dateline crew members during an insurance brokers’ seminar in Colorado located on BCA property.

The reporters worked with Alabama law enforcement to gain access to the event since it was only open to licensed insurance agents, which Clark and BCA claimed to be a Fourth Amendment violation of the company’s right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Defamation verdict in Air Wisconsin case vacated by Supreme Court

Michael Rooney | Libel | News | January 27, 2014
January 27, 2014

The Supreme Court ruled today in Air Wisconsin v. Hoeper that airlines cannot be held liable for reporting safety threats to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if the report was essentially true, even if some details were false. The Court held that airlines would not be stripped of the statutory immunity from civil suits under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) for reporting such safety threats.

Ninth Circuit: Bloggers, public have same defamation protections as 'institutional press' on matters of public concern

Cindy Gierhart | Libel | News | January 17, 2014
January 17, 2014

The Ninth Circuit ruled today in Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox that bloggers -- and other members of the public -- are governed by the same decades-old defamation jurisprudence as the "institutional press” when speaking about matters of public concern.

Crystal Cox wrote blog posts alleging a bankruptcy trustee and his company committed fraud, corruption, and money-laundering. The trustee, Kevin Padrick, and company, Obsidian Finance Group, sued for defamation.

One question before the court was whether the New York Times v. Sullivan and Gertz v. Robert Welch line of cases applied to Cox, as a blogger, or whether the rules set forth under those cases only applied to the “institutional press.”

Virginia Supreme Court rules for newspaper in libel case

Michael Rooney | Libel | News | January 14, 2014
January 14, 2014

The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld a decision throwing out a libel verdict against The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

The justices unanimously ruled that the paper did not libel Phillip Webb after it reported that Webb’s son was not disciplined by the school system stemming from a physical altercation. Webb was an assistant principal at a different high school in the same school system.

At trial, Webb asserted that the 2009 story suggested that the son received special treatment due to Webb's role as an assistant principal in that school system. For this, a jury awarded Webb $3 million in damages.

Air Wisconsin v. Hoeper

September 5, 2013

The Reporters Committee and 15 other news organizations filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to overturn a Colorado Supreme Court decision that allowed a defamation verdict to stand without considering whether the statements were substantially true.