A New Jersey appellate court ruled last week that journalists can be subject to libel lawsuits for reporting the contents of a legal complaint.
Though the fair report privilege has long provided journalists with a defense to libel suits for stories that quote from official proceedings, the court held that the privilege only applies when journalists quote from court decisions -- not from court pleadings filed by individual parties.
Last week’s ruling reversed a lower court decision dismissing a libel claim against The Record and The Glen Ridge Voice. Thomas John Salzano, whose father was the CEO of a bankrupt telecommunications firm called NorVergence, filed the lawsuit after the newspapers reported that the bankruptcy trustee in New Jersey had filed a complaint against him for allegedly misappropriating roughly $500,000 from NorVergence.
The lower court judge, ruling from the bench, dismissed the suit and said Salzano had not proven actual malice – the standard that is applied in defamation claims involving public figures or matters of public concern.http://www.rcfp.org/newsitems/index.php?i=7146