Civil cases

Courthouse News Service v. Brown

April 19, 2018

RCFP and a coalition of media organizations filed an amicus brief in the Seventh Circuit in support of Courthouse News Service's efforts to require the Cook County (Illinois) Circuit Court to fulfill its First Amendment obligations related to access to newly filed civil complaints. The district court granted CNS a preliminary injunction ordering the circuit court clerk to provide contemporaneous access to the documents, and the clerk appealed the injunction. RCFP's brief argues that the First Amendment right of access requires the clerk to provide contemporaneous access to newly filed civil complaints before processing. In addition, the brief argues that timely access to civil complaints benefits the public and that CNS's profit motive and readership are irrelevant to the determination of the First Amendment right of access.


Federal anti-SLAPP bill is focus of House hearing

Luis Ferre Sadurni | Libel | News | June 23, 2016
June 23, 2016

On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) bill, which would combat lawsuits filed to intimidate exercise of free speech.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) introduced H.R. 2304, the SPEAK FREE Act, last summer and the bill was referred to the subcommittee on June 1, 2015. Similar to anti-SLAPP laws passed at the state level, the proposed legislation would amend the federal judicial code to allow defendants speaking out about official proceedings or matters of public concern a special motion to dismiss the case early in litigation as well as a stay on discovery in order to combat SLAPPs.

Courthouse News Service v. Planet

November 7, 2014

Courthouse News Service (CNS) filed a federal lawsuit against a California state superior court for delaying access to newly filed unlimited civil complaints for days or weeks. CNS argued that the First Amendment provides a right of access to civil complaints that attaches immediately upon filing, and its reporters should be able to inspect newly filed civil complaints the day they are filed. A federal district court granted the defendant-court's motion to dismiss, finding that the type of access requested was not required under the First Amendment. The Reporters Committee and 25 other media organizations argued that a First Amendment right of access attaches to civil complaints when they are filed. The brief argued that the public has a right to know what matters are occupying space on court dockets and consuming public resources, and that complaints reveal a wealth of information about how citizens use the judicial branch.

District court judge dismisses defamation claim over N.Y. Attorney General's press release

Jack Komperda | Libel | News | January 15, 2013
January 15, 2013

A New York federal judge has ruled that a dentist acquitted of fraudulently billing Medicaid for services he never performed will not be able to pursue a defamation claim against prosecutors who touted his indictment for a "million dollar Medicaid theft" in a press release.

Brooklyn dentist Leonard Morse was indicted in 2006 for larceny and ultimately acquitted the following year. He then sued the New York Attorney General's Office for defamation and other civil rights violations.

Reporters Committee lauds federal court's ruling that secret Del. court arbitration is unconstitutional

Press Release | August 30, 2012
August 30, 2012
Reporters Committee lauds federal court's ruling that secret Del. court arbitration is unconstitutional

A federal judge in Delaware stood up for the right to be informed about important disputes that may affect public health and safety Thursday when she declared unconstitutional state court rules that allow blanket confidentiality in private arbitration proceedings and records.

Libel lawsuit against professional review website dismissed under Wash. anti-SLAPP statute

Andrea Papagianis | Libel | News | April 2, 2012
April 2, 2012

The U.S. District Court in Seattle dismissed a lawsuit against a website that profiles and rates lawyers, doctors and dentists across the country under the Washington anti-SLAPP statute.

Judge dismisses libel suit against Virginia television station

Rachel Bunn | Libel | Feature | February 14, 2012
February 14, 2012

A federal judge dismissed a $5 million libel lawsuit by a former tax preparer against a Virginia television station that allegedly referred to him as “unscrupulous.”

Federal court rules to keep Calif. fire documents public

Haley Behre | Secret Courts | Feature | February 2, 2012
February 2, 2012

A federal trial court in California granted a newspaper's request for documents in a civil lawsuit involving a 2007 forest fire that burned down tens of thousands of acres northeast of Sacramento, ruling that the writings became public records once they were filed with the court.

Company seeks anonymity in suit over product safety database

Kristen Rasmussen | Secret Courts | Feature | October 19, 2011
October 19, 2011

An unnamed manufacturer challenging an online database of safety complaints has asked the court to allow it to proceed anonymously, arguing that the public filing of legal documents implicates the very interests the company seeks to protect by bringing the litigation.

U.S. judges to colleagues: put fewer civil cases under seal

Kirsten Berg | Secret Courts | Feature | September 13, 2011
September 13, 2011

Too many civil lawsuits are closed off to the public, according to the policy-making body of the federal justice system, which unanimously recommended today that U.S. judges limit the number of cases kept under seal.