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Reporters Committee supports "opinion" defense in suit over Boston singer's suicide

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The Reporters Committee and 25 other media organizations filed a friend-of-the court brief in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday…

The Reporters Committee and 25 other media organizations filed a friend-of-the court brief in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday in the case Scholz v. Boston Herald. The court had requested briefs from outside parties on the question of whether statements by the Boston Herald were protected opinion and therefore not libel.

Tom Scholz, founder of the band Boston, sued the Boston Herald for libel over a series of stories that discussed motivating factors that may have led fellow band member Brad Delp to take his own life. The Herald wrote about tensions within the band and quoted Delp's ex-wife as saying Delp, the group's lead singer, was upset that his longtime friend might be disinvited from the upcoming tour.

The brief of the Reporters Committee delineated how the protections for opinion in libel law have progressed in recent years, explaining that expressions of opinion supported by disclosed, nondefamatory facts and expressions of opinion that cannot be proved false are fully protected. The brief argues that the lower court correctly held that the statements by the Boston Herald were not libelous because they were supported by facts disclosed in the articles and because the insinuation that Scholz may have, in some way, contributed to Delp's decision to take his own life could not possibly be proven true or false.

About the Reporters Committee

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.