MEDIA LAW CASES
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BRANZBURG V HAYES
- was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision invalidating the use of the First Amendment as a defense for reporters summoned to testify before a grand jury.
- The case was argued February 23, 1972 and decided June 29 of the same
- year. The reporter lost his case by a vote of 5-4, but the vote on the
- opinion was 4-1-4 so there is no holding. Nonetheless this case is
- cited for the rule that in federal courts, a reporter may not avoid
- testifying in a criminal grand jury. It remains the only time the
- Supreme Court has considered the use of Reporters' Privilege.
COHEN V. COWLES MEDIA
- was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that freedom of the press does not exempt journalists from generally applicable laws.
- Dan Cohen, a Republican associated with Wheelock Whitney's 1982 Minnesota gubernatorial run, provided inculpatory information on the Democratic challenger for Lieutenant Governor, Marlene Johnson, to the Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press in exchange for a promise that his identity as the source
- would not be published. Over the reporters' objections, both editors
- from the two newspapers independently decided to publish his name. He
- consequently lost his job at an advertising agency. He sued Cowles Media Company, who owned the newspaper.
- In 1988, a jury of six found in Cohen's favor. The Minnesota Supreme Court
- reversed. The United States Supreme Court remanded the case to the
- Minnesota Supreme Court, which reinstated the jury's original verdict
- of $200,000.
- The Cowles Media Company was found to have committed a breach of contract called promissory estoppel.
hustler magazine v. falwell
- (1988), the United States Supreme Court held, in a unanimous 8-0 decision (Justice Anthony Kennedy took no part in the consideration or decision of the case), that the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee prohibits awarding damages to public figures to compensate for emotional distress intentionally inflicted upon them.
- Thus, Hustler magazine's parody of Jerry Falwell was deemed to be within the law, because the Court found that reasonable people would not have interpreted the parody
- to contain factual claims, leading to a reversal of the jury verdict in
- favor of Falwell, who had previously been awarded $200,000 in damages
- by a lower court.
nebraska press association vs. stuart
- In the 1976 landmark case Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539 (1976), the Court addressed the constitutionality of an order prohibiting the media from publishing or broadcasting certain information about Erwin Charles Simants, who was accused of murdering the Henry Kellie family in a small town in Nebraska. This case pitted the First Amendment rights of a free press against the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.
- To ensure that Simants received a fair trial, the Nebraska Supreme Court modified the district court's order to prohibit reporting of confessions or admissions made by Simants or facts "strongly implicative" of Simants.
- A prior restraint is an official restriction of speech prior to publication. Prior restraints are viewed by the Supreme Court of the United States as "the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights" (Note 1). Since 1931, the Court repeatedly has found that such attempts to censor the media are presumed unconstitutional.
rice v. paladin enterprises
- The suit, Rice v Paladin Enterprises, claimed that Paladin
- Press had a share of responsibility in the murders by virtue of their
- publication of a book that, by Paladin's own admission, could be used
- by criminals and would-be criminals in the solicitation, planning, and
- commission of murder for hire.
- In November 1997, a U.S. appeals court ruled 3-0 that Hit Man was not protected by the free speech/free press clause of the First Amendment and thus Paladin Enterprises could be held liable for a triple murder committed by one of its readers.
- On May 21, 1999, Paladin Press' insurance company agreed to settle
- the case out-of-court, against the wishes of Paladin Press themselves,
- who were confident that they would prevail in court; however, Paladin’s
- insurance company balked at going to court again, figuring expenses for
- a lengthy trial in federal court, plus the posting of a bond in case
- they lost and appealed, would have cost much more than the settlement.
- Under this settlement, Paladin's insurance policy paid several million
- dollars to the families of those killed by the murderer, while also
- agreeing to destroy the remaining 700 copies of the book in their
- possession and surrendering any rights they had to publish and
- reproduce the work. Jon Ford, Paladin’s editorial director, called the
- settlement "economic censorship."
- This settlement would prove not entirely successful in suppressing
- the book, as it has appeared for download on various Internet sites.
- The book was also cited as a source of information in a similar crime committed by Robert Vaughn Jones in 1999.
sheppard v. maxwell
- (1966), was a United States Supreme Court case that examined the rights of freedom of the press as outlined in the 1st Amendment when weighed against a defendant's right to a fair trial as required by the 6th Amendment.
- In particular, the court sought to determine whether or not defendant
- was denied fair trial for the second-degree murder of his wife, of
- which he was convicted, because of the trial judge's failure to protect
- Sheppard sufficiently from the massive, pervasive, and prejudicial
- publicity that attended his prosecution.
the florida star v. B.J.F
- Journalists requested, under the Freedom of Information Act
- (FOIA), that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of
- Investigation (FBI) disclose any criminal records in its possession
- concerning four brothers whose family company allegedly had obtained
- defense contracts through an improper arrangement with a corrupt
- Congressman. The Department released only the "rap sheet" of the fourth, deceased brother.
- The journalists sued in District Court, limiting their request to
- documents containing information that was a matter of public record.
- While the suit was pending, two more of the brothers died, and the FBI
- (1) released the requested data concerning those brothers, (2)
- indicated that any financial crime information about the remaining
- brother could be disclosed in the public interest, but that no such
- information existed, and (3) refused to release any rap sheet or other
- records containing nonfinancial criminal information about him.
zurcher v. stanford daily
- (1978) is a United States Supreme Court case from 1978 in which the Stanford Daily,
- a student news publication at Stanford University, was searched by
- police after they suspected the paper to be in possession of
- photographs of a demonstration that took place at the campus' medical
- center in April 1971. The paper filed a suit claiming that under the
- protection of the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution
- the warrants were unconstitutional and that the searches should have
- fallen under the context of subpoenas. The court ruled against the Stanford Daily; however, Congress passed the Privacy Protection Act of 1980,
- which prohibits search and seizures related to journalism unless the
- writer is suspected of a crime or a life-threatening situation is
- present.
- 5-3 ruling in favor of zurcher
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