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Shield statutes and libel lawsuits

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Which state shield laws explicitly lay out a different standard for defamation cases? From the Spring 2007 issue of The…

Which state shield laws explicitly lay out a different standard for defamation cases?

From the Spring 2007 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 26.

Illinois

A plaintiff must show “either a specific public interest which would be adversely affected if the factual information sought were not disclosed, or, in libel or slander cases, the necessity of disclosure of the information sought to the proof of plaintiff’s case.”

The law also says that in libel or slander cases, a plaintiff must make an initial showing of the “falsity of the alleged defamation and actual harm or injury due to the alleged defamation.”

Minnesota

The privilege “shall not apply in any defamation action where the person seeking disclosure can demonstrate that the identity of the source will lead to relevant evidence on the issue of actual malice.”

However, “the identity of the source of information shall not be ordered disclosed unless the following conditions are met: (a) that there is probable cause to believe that the source has information clearly relevant to the issue of defamation; (b) that the information cannot be obtained by any alternative means or remedy less destructive of [F]irst [A]mendment rights.”

The other four states with shield laws that address libel lawsuits share similar language in their reporter’s privilege laws:

Oklahoma

The qualified privilege “does not apply with respect to the content or source of allegedly defamatory information, in a civil action for defamation wherein the defendant asserts a defense based on the content or source of such information.”

Oregon

The privilege does “not apply with respect to the content or source of allegedly defamatory information, in a civil action for defamation wherein the defendant asserts a defense based on the content or source of such information.”

Rhode Island

The privilege does not apply to “the source of any allegedly defamatory information in any case where the defendant, in a civil action for defamation, asserts a defense based on the source of the information.”

Tennessee

The privilege “shall not apply with respect to the source of any allegedly defamatory information in any case where the defendant in a civil action for defamation asserts a defense based on the source of such information.” –ES