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Sunday, November 23, 2008

New Jersey appellate court narrows fair report privilege

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.

1 comment:

Corey Ryan said...

To be clear, is a legal complaint filed with the court, like a brief? How is that document any different than any other document sent to the court?

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