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Reporters Committee asks U.S. Supreme Court to clarify appellate review of falsity claims

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify…

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify appellate review of falsity claims in defamation cases to bring it in line with appellate review of actual malice.

The case of Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper is centered on a defamation claim filed by Hoeper over statements by employees of the airline, who notified Transportation Security Administration concerns about Hoeper’s behavior following a flight training session that went badly. Hoeper was on a flight home following his training when authorities pulled him off the plane and searched him based on statements made by Air Wisconsin employees. Hoeper later sued the regional airline for defamation and won a $1.4 million judgment. The case has strong implications for journalists, who often are the target of defamation claims.

“We’re asking the Supreme Court to set standards for appellate court review in defamation cases, ensuring that the same standard that is applied to actual malice – an independent, de novo review of the evidence across the entire record – is applied to falsity,” explained Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce D. Brown. “This would ensure the strongest possible First Amendment buffers against intrusions on protected speech.”

The brief encourages the Court to “accept review in order to clarify for lower courts that the principle of independent appellate review of actual malice in defamation cases applies with equal force to the question of falsity.”

The Reporters Committee brief is online.

About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.