Public figure

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.

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.

D.C. District Court applies local anti-SLAPP statute, dismisses defamation claim against Foreign Policy

Cindy Gierhart | Libel | News | October 1, 2013
October 1, 2013

A federal judge dismissed a defamation claim by the Palestinian Authority leader’s son against a Washington, D.C.-based magazine and applied the district's anti-SLAPP statute in federal court.

Rhode Island Supreme Court dismisses defamation complaint against reporter, talk radio host

Raymond Baldino | Libel | News | July 9, 2012
July 9, 2012

The Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a defamation claim brought by a restaurant owner against two journalists for their coverage of a 2009 "off the record" event at his restaurant where attendees included politicians, businesspeople and press members.

Miami judge dismisses former Senate candidate's libel suit against two Fla. newspapers

Chris Healy | Libel | News | April 24, 2012
April 24, 2012

A Florida judge has dismissed a former U.S. Senate candidate's libel suit against the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald.

Iowa state senator wins $231,000 in defamation suit over campaign ad

Haley Behre | Libel | News | April 11, 2012
April 11, 2012

An Iowa jury awarded a state senator $231,000 in a defamation suit last week, finding that his opponent and the local Democratic Party defamed him in a TV ad that ran during the 2010 senate race.

State Sen. Rick Bertrand, a Republican, filed the suit with the Woodbury County District Court within 48 hours after the campaign ad aired claiming that Bertrand “put profit over children’s health,” according to the senator. The ad was paid for by the Iowa Democratic Party and approved by his opponent Rick Mullin, who would eventually lose the election to Bertrand.

Judge orders release of additional Reagan FBI documents

Rachel Bunn | Freedom of Information | Feature | March 9, 2012
March 9, 2012

A U.S. District Court ruled that the FBI must release unredacted documents about Ronald Reagan to a journalist who has legally sought the information for the last 27 years in an attempt to prove that the former president was not only a bureau informant, but that the FBI assisted in his political career in return.

Georgia's highest court won't review Jewell libel case

Andrea Papagianis | Libel | Feature | January 11, 2012
January 11, 2012

Earlier this week the Georgia Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision in the long-running libel case against The Atlanta Journal-Constitution filed by Richard Jewell, who was wrongfully accused of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, and carried on by his family since his death in 2007.

Dominican sugar executives are public figures, court rules

Chris Healy | Libel | Feature | December 13, 2011
December 13, 2011

Two sugar-cane plantation owners from the Dominican Republic must satisfy a higher standard reserved for public figures if they are to prevail in a libel suit against American filmmakers who made a documentary critical of the Caribbean nation's sugar industry, a federal court of appeals has ruled.