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When Media Treads on Thin IceOther

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A Post reporter found on a dirt road in Iraq some maps and documents created by the U.S. military relating to military action in the war. Because the Post is a responsible newspaper, it calls and asks a high-ranking military commander to explain the materials and put them in context. The next day, the Government goes to court to keep the Post from publishing documents.

What is the legal name for what the Government is seeking?

What is the standard the judge will use to determine if the Government will succeed?

Where does the standard come from?

The government is seeking an injunctive equity remedy since preventing the Post from publishing the documents is the action that is needed and requested. The court could issue a temporary restraining order in this instance, without written or oral notice to the adverse party dependent on facts in a verified complaint that show immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result before the adverse party can be heard in opposition. The standard comes from Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Injunctions. Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/injunction

2. The Daily Snooze is working on an article about the effect of the recession on young professionals. The Snooze's reporter interviews a young architect Iva Builtit, who is willing to talk about another architect and his downsized firm, John Harvard, and who says that in contrast with Harvard's application form, Harvard never attended the Yale School of Design. The reporter puts Builtit's direct quote in the Snooze, naming Builtit and quoting his statement accurately. The article says that Harvard, when asked to respond, had no comment.

Assuming Harvard did attend Yale, could the Snooze be trouble for his reporting? Why or why not?

Republication of a defamatory statement made by someone else can be considered defamatory. Immunity is not automatic when quoting another person, regardless of whether the statement has been properly attributed. A claim of defamation needs to show that the claim was a false statement of fact (libel in this instance, as the claim was in written form). Defamation is governed by state law, an important consideration particularly with regard to claims of actual damage. However, some states will allow for per se damages in which, for instance, a defamatory statement has impugned the professional character or standing of an individual.

Retrieved from http://www.dmlp.org/book/export/html/1813

3. Microsoft has a rule that no employee can wear a political button or pin, and that violation of this rule can lead to severe discipline. Last month, an employee, Bud Button, was suspended without pay for wearing a "Palin in '16" button. Bud Button sues. How strong if the First Amendment argument which Button makes? Why?

Employers have wide discretion when it comes to free speech in the work place as the law is generally applies only to government censorship of free speech. States vary on regulations regarding political expression in the workplace, but generally an employer can discipline or discharge an employee for legitimate business-related reasons in response to conduct that is basically political expression at work -- particularly if treatment of employees is the same for everyone at a company or business.

Snyder, J.A. & Lewis, J. (2013, June 1). Top ten questions regarding political dialogue in the workplace. Legal Resources. Association of Corporate Counsel. Retrieved http://www.acc.com/legalresources/publications/topten/TopTenQuestionsRegardingPoliticalDialogueintheWorkplace.cfm

4. A state statute says it is a crime to distribute or publish the name of a juvenile defendant. A 17-year-old student, I.M. Hip, has been accused of a murder at a high school and is about to go to trial. A state prosecutor leaks to a Post reporter I.M. Hip's name and the reporter promptly publishes a Post article on the case mentioning his name.

I.M. Hip sues the Post for publishing his name in violation of the statute. What is the likely result? What is the test the court will use (and the names or types of cases it will use as a precedent)? What jeopardy exists for the Post reporter?

The media must not publish information obtained from sources that violate the confidentiality protections for juveniles who are involved in juvenile proceedings. However, the U.S. Supreme Court hold that reporters' First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights outweigh states' interests regarding the rehabilitation of juveniles. A reporter may publish the names of juvenile offenders if they have lawfully obtaining the names. A reporter was permitted to publish he name of a juvenile who was charged with murder since the name of the juvenile was acquired by when the reporter monitored police radio frequencies and interviewed witnesses (Smith v Daily Mail, 443 U.S.9y7 (1999)). Newpapers may publish the names of juveniles who are not involved in juvenile proceedings, within the legal bounds applied to publishing adult names, such as invasion of privacy and defamation (Pierog v. The Morning Call, 1995 WL 813'63 (Pa. Com. Pl. 1995).

News Reporting Concerning Juveniles (42 P.S. §6301 et. seq., 18 P.S. § 9104-9105). Pennyslvania Newspaper Handbook. Pennsylvania News Media Association. Retrieved from http://panewsmedia.org/legal/publications/newspaperhandbook/juvenile-news-reporting

5. The Assistant Secretary of Defense (an appointed, not elected, post) has been defamed in a Post article. The false statement in the article, which hurt the reputation of the Assistant Secretary, was completely caused by a Post reporter carelessly misreading a document. (In addition, many years ago the Assistant Secretary and the reporter had been in college together, and the Assistant Secretary had stolen the reporter's girlfriend).

Focusing on the issue of fault, what is the likely outcome of the libel case? Why?

It is unlikely that the Assistant Secretary of Defense will be able to prove actual malice, which is what would be required since he is a public figure and an official of the government. The actual malice standard is based on the actual state of mind of the defendant at the time of the publication. The time that passed between the stolen girlfriend and the publication of the false statement makes the actual state of mind connect doubtful. Moreover, the plaintiff would have to produce clear, convincing evidence that the defendant knew the information was false or seriously doubted that the statement he published was true. This means that efforts to edit, fact check, and research the statement would be considered. That said, it would not be sufficient for the plaintiff to say show that the defendant didn't like him, didn't contact him for comment before publication, relied on a single potentially biased source, or neglected to correct the false statement after publication.

Retrieved from http://panewsmedia.org/legal/publications/newspaperhandbook/juvenile-news-reporting

6. CRASH, the Center for Retired Adult Senile and Handicapped, California's 2nd largest private assisted-living agency for mentally challenged old people, has long been rumored to give inadequate care and to abuse and injure patients. To better check this out, KSLZ-TV in Los Angeles has its producers place hidden cameras in patient's rooms in two of its homes. They show patients being mercilessly beaten, screamed at, and generally abused by the homes staff. After KSLV-TV broadcasts the story, CRASH'S business crashes. Two of the patients shown on the tapes sue KSLV-TV. What claims will they bring and what will be the results?

The television station published private information about the residents of the assisted-living facility without obtaining permission to do so. Regardless of the fact that the portrayal of the residents was accurate, the personal attributes of the residents -- particularly their vulnerability -- was used in an exploitive manner, greatly increasing the appeal of the broadcast to the television audience. The exposure of private lives and identities was doubtless hurtful and disruptive to their families as well, as the general public would expect them to practice better due diligence when placing vulnerable family members in care facilities. The family members can sue for unauthorized publication of private facts on behalf of their compromised elders.

Publishing Personal or Private Information. Digital Media Law Project. Retreived from http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/publishing-personal-and-private-information

7. Donald Trump has been described in a Post article as routinely not paying general contractors who worked for him and then when they complain, firing them. The article (a) includes Trump's denial of this charge and (b) a few days later the Post runs a retraction admitting the facts were wrong. (c) Trump does not allege that he lost any money as a result of the false statement (in fact, the ratings for his TV Show "Celebrity Apprentice" went up in the days after the article).

Assuming that the charges are false and that actual malice could be proven, and discussing the above considerations, is the Post in trouble in a possible libel lawsuit?

A person who brings a defamation lawsuit must generally prove the following: 1) The defendant actually published the statement; 2) the statement is about the plaintiff; 3) the statement harmed the reputation of the plaintiff; 4) the statement was published with some level of fault (actual malice or negligence); 5) the statement was published without any applicable privilege. An aspect of Donald Trump's public persona is that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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