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Judge sues columnist over allegation of conflict

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  1. Libel and Privacy
Libel suits brought by judges are always a serious concern for journalists because of the deferential treatment judges are often…

Libel suits brought by judges are always a serious concern for journalists because of the deferential treatment judges are often given in the legal system, as two recent cases have taught us.

A recent libel case filed by a New York state judge makes the point just as directly — the judge is suing because a New York Daily News columnist said he should have recused himself from a case being litigated by someone the columnist said was the judge’s "personal counsel."

Regardless of whether the lawyer’s representation was less substantial than that, or whether he should have recused himself in any case, it seems clear that a judge should not resort to litigation over criticism of his public duties.

If reporters cannot freely report on the courts without fearing multimillion-dollar lawsuits, the protections of the First Amendment mean very little.