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April 2021

MediaLawLetter April 2021

PUBLICATION:
in this issue

From the Executive Director’s Desk: Suggestions for Combatting the Poor Public Perception of Journalists

George Freeman

Among other professions, journalists rank in the bottom rungs in being trustworthy and ethical in the public’s perception.

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Jury Finds Iowa Journalist Andrea Sahouri Not Guilty

Nick Klinefeldt and David Yoshimura

Des Moines Register journalist Andrea Sahouri was arrested while covering a Black Lives Matter protest occurring in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

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Source Anonymity: A Practical Checklist of Issues and Questions

Craig T. Merritt and Steven D. Zansberg

A practical checklist for attorneys to use when a client seeks advice about potential criminal or civil liability arising out of accessing and/or publishing information where the source (a) was not legally authorized to obtain and/or disclose the information to the press, and (b) insists on being promised confidentiality as a condition for providing the information.

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NDAs Take an “L”: Court Rules Trump Campaign Non-Disclosure Agreement Unenforceable

Joe Slaughter

SDNY Judge Paul Gardephe struck a blow for transparency in ruling that non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions in a Trump Campaign employment contract are invalid and unenforceable as a matter of New York contract law.

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Eleventh Circuit Upholds Qualified Immunity for Police Officer

Jacqueline A. DeJournett and Peter Canfield

On April 20, the Eleventh Circuit upheld qualified immunity for a police officer, finding that a witness to a highway accident not did have a clearly established right to photograph police conduct at the scene.

Former Congresswoman’s “Revenge Porn” Suit Against Media Outlets Dismissed

Kelli Sager, Dan Laidman, and Abigail Zeitlin

A Los Angeles judge has rejected a novel attempt to hold media outlets liable under a so-called “revenge porn” statute, in a high-profile case involving former Congresswoman Katie Hill.

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Fourth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Claims Against Multiple News Organizations by Russian-Born Graduate Student

Matthew E. Kelley

Hyperlinks and third-party tweets directing readers to allegedly defamatory articles do not constitute republications that restart the statute of limitations, the Fourth Circuit ruled in affirming dismissal of defamation claims related to coverage of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 elections.

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Eleventh Circuit Decides New York’s Fair Report Privilege Protects Gizmodo Report on Sealed Florida Court Filing

The Eleventh Circuit unanimously affirmed summary judgment for Gizmodo Media Group in a libel suit filed by Trump aide Jason Miller, finding that New York’s fair and true report privilege protected publication of allegations concerning Miller that were filed but under seal in a Florida paternity/custody proceeding.

D.C. Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Defamation Claim Against Global Witness

Maxwell S. Mishkin

The D.D.C. dismissed their complaint for failure to plausibly allege that Global Witness published the report with actual malice, and the D.C. Circuit affirmed over a dissent that has received more press than the ruling itself.

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Florida Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of $50 Million Libel Suit

Karen Williams Kammer

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal found that what WPLG/Local 10 had reported about pastor Eric Readon in 2017 was true in all material respects.

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Daily News Reports About Teacher’s “Slavery Lesson” Not Defamatory

Amanda Levine

The case stems from a 2018 article reporting that that plaintiff, in teaching her students about the Middle Passage, had black students sit in the front of the classroom and put her feet on them, mimicking the conditions on a slave ship. 

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Court Affirms Dismissal of Bail Jumper’s Case Against Reality TV Show

Cameron Stracher

After nine years of litigation, including trips up and down the appellate ladder in Louisiana, plaintiff Everette Draughn’s days in court appear to be drawing to a close.

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Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta Wins Dismissal of Libel Suit Under Georgia’s New(ish) Anti-SLAPP Law

Alia Smith

The court rejected granted the anti-SLAPP motion in full, holding that defendant made the “‘threshold showing’ that the challenged speech arises ‘in connection with an issue of public interest or concern’ because the speech concerns consumer affairs.”

Is There Life on Mars and Venus? S.D.N.Y. Says Leave It To The Scientists

Jeremy Chase and Robert Balin

Judge Cronan’s well-reasoned decision methodically dispensed with each of Dr. Joseph’s claims, and – akin to how courts abstain from wading into questions of religious doctrine – reaffirmed the important principle that courts should refrain from deciding cases that ask judges to resolve open scientific questions.

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Court Dismisses Chinese Automaker’s Defamation Suit Against Vice

Amanda Levine

Headline was fair index of article; plaintiff failed to plausibly allege actual malice.

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Is Compelling Social Media to Moderate According to First Amendment Standards Consistent with First Amendment Principles?

Jeff Hermes

Justice Clarence Thomas issued a separate concurring opinion questioning whether public officials could be held to First Amendment standards with respect to conduct on social media sites owned and operated by private parties who are not themselves subject to the First Amendment.

10 Questions to a Media Lawyer: Beverly Davis

Beverly Davis

Beverly Davis, managing member of a boutique entertainment law firm in Washington, DC, on her background in media law, pandemic life, karaoke choices and more.

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