Friday, February 26, 2010

No Love Lost in Tennis Pro Libel Suit

Indoor tennis courts at the UniversityImage via Wikipedia
English tennis pro Robert Dee, 23, has taken to a law court, instead of a tennis court,  to slam London's Daily Telegraph in a libel suit for calling him the "World's worst tennis pro."

According to an account in The Guardian, Dee's attorney said  articles in the Telegraph on April 23, 2008, featured stories under the headlines "World's worst tennis pro wins at last" and "A British sensation--the world's worst," that describe his client's "dismal run" of three years on the professional circuit during which Dee did not win any matches before  he defeated an unranked 17-year-old player in Spain in April 2008, and equate Dee's 54 consecutive match losses to losing performances by a swimmer and a ski jumper.

Dee concedes losing 54 international matches in a row, but claims he had "modest success" in national tournaments in Spain during that losing streak. Dee's attorney said the Telegraph articles exposed his client to ridicule and contempt and could deter others from hiring Dee as a professional coach.  Moreover, Dee asserts that he was not world-ranked in 2008, and therefore, could not be the "World's worst" player.

For its part, the Telegraph is sticking to its guns, and calling in big guns, including tennis greats Boris Becker and John Lloyd, as witnesses. Thus far, Dee's legal spin has been more successful than the spin in his serve, as he has extracted apologies and/or damages from various English media outlets that disparaged his tennis skills, but wanted to avoid litigation, including the Guardian, the Sun, the BBC and the Daily Mail. 

Although arguably calling Dee the world's worst tennis pro could be an objectively verifiable statement of fact, "TUOL" suspects were the lawsuit brought in the U.S. against American media outlets, Dee might be jumping over the net to congratulate the winner, because the burden would be on him to prove  the media outlets published the falsestatement with actual malice. The media would offer up a defense of fair comment--that is, calling Dee the world's worst is a statement of  opinion, which is neither true nor false, and therefore, not susceptible to a defamatory meaning. If the events had occurred in the less libel plaintiff-friendly U.S., there wouldn't have been match point in bringing suit.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

City Pays Tacoma News Tribune for Open Public Meetings Act Violation

City of TacomaImage via Wikipedia
The City of Tacoma, Washington, agreed to pay the McClatchy Co.-owned Tacoma News Tribune ("TNT") $7,500 to resolve a lawsuit brought by the daily newspaper that accused the city of  violating the state's open meeting law by selecting two city councilors in executive session.

The TNT reports that the city agreed to pay the paper's legal fees for the lawsuit TNT filed that accused the City Council of violating the Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30) at its January 6 meeting by going into executive session to address filling two vacancies on the council and then reconvening in public session to announce, without discussion,  its unanimous approval of eight finalists from a pool of 40 applicants.

During a hearing at which TNT unsuccessfully sought to enjoin the Council from going into executive session at its Jan. 14 meeting to make its final choice to fill the vacant seats, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff said a "reasonable inference" could be drawn that the council had violated the open meeting law, according to the TNT article.  RCW 42.30.110 sets forth exceptions to the public meeting law that allow elected officials to go into executive session, including to review negotiations on the performance of publicly bid contracts, to discuss matters of national security, and to receive and evaluate complaints and charges brought against a public officer or employee.

The lawsuit was dismissed by agreement of the parties on Feb. 12.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Will 'Amendment 1' Trump 911?

9-1-1Image by KayVee.INC via Flickr

The Associated Press reports that a handful of states, including Alabama, Wisconsin and Ohio, are considering whether to join the ranks of states that have outlawed the public release of  emergency 911 recordings.

Wyoming, Rhode Island, Missouri and Pennsylvania already have laws in place that prevent  the often frantic emergency call recordings from being aired by the news media. Proponents of the ban claim releasing transcripts or audiotapes of the 911 calls infringe on individuals' privacy and deter people from calling authorities for help. Advocates for airing the emergency messages cite the watchdog function of the news media that might expose incompetence by officials responding to the pleas for assistance.

The First Amendment argument is a legitimate one, but news media outlets probably would elicit more support for their position if they could overcome their obsession with repeatedly airing the 911 calls of Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen and other notorious dialers.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Media Outlets Seek Access to 'Terrorist' Plea Agreement

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29:  In this courtroom sk...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Prosecutors and counsel for Najibullah Zazi have until Friday to respond to a request by media outlets to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Chief Judge Raymond J. Dearie  for access to a sealed plea agreement.

According to The Los Angeles Times,  Bloomberg News is expected to join the action by Newsday and the Associated Press concerning the sealed agreement involving Zazi, a 25-year-old Afghani native and former airport shuttle driver in Colorado, who faces a sentence of life imprisonment without parole after pleading guilty to planning to construct and detonate homemade explosives created from beauty supplies in  New York City subways around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The news media wants the plea agreement unsealed in part because of thus far unsubstantiated allegations that Zazi's confession may have been coerced through threatened prosecutions of his relatives.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

NC Appeals Court Upholds Sanctions for Bad Faith Libel Claim

Seal of North CarolinaImage via Wikipedia
The North Carolina Court of Appeals  in  Mark Ward v. Jett Properties, LLC (Case No. 08-1508) has affirmed the imposition of sanctions against a plaintiff whose "bad faith" defamation claim against his landlord was dismissed.

The appellate court remanded the matter to the trial court for further findings of fact regarding the actual $2,000 penalty levied against the plaintiff.  The case concerns a letter written by the defendant responding to plaintiff's complaints against actions taken by neighboring tenants. The landlord's letter, a copy of which purportedly was sent to the homeowners association, allegedly threatened to evict the plaintiff, revoke his parking space, and report him to authorities for not obtaining state tags for his vehicle.

In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged the letter defamed him by accusing him of being a "nuisance," engaging in "continued harassment" and "pestering behavior," and "stalking" others in the neighborhood, among other claims. The plaintiff contended the statements in the letter constituted libel per se and harmed his reputation by exposing him to ridicule and contempt, but the appeals court disagreed.

The appellate court said the accusations of dishonesty and harassing behavior were rhetorical hyperbole that did not rise to the level of libel per se. The appellate court cited the plaintiff's history of filing four previously dismissed complaints against the defendant, as well as numerous lawsuits against others as a basis for supporting sanctions under Rule 11 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure for bringing the latest complaint in bad faith. 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Google to Appeal Italian Court Criminal Conviction

Google Inc.Image via Wikipedia
California-based Internet search giant Google, Inc., will appeal the criminal convictions for invasion of privacy of three of its top executives in an Italian Court this week, according to American Lawyer.

Google CFO George Reyes, Senior Vice President David Drummond and Chief Privacy Officer Peter Fleischer were sentenced to six months in prison for violating Italy's privacy laws concerning a 2006 video posted on now-defunct Google Video depicting students taunting and throwing an object at a Down Syndrome youth, which resulted in four students being expelled from their Turin school. The Google executives, who were acquitted of defamation charges, are not facing jail time because short prison sentences for first-time offenders are commuted under Italian court rules.

The Google officers could not be prosecuted under U.S. law for the charges against them in Italy principally because of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C. sec. 230(c)(1)), which states: "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Incredibly Shrinking ABC News

Looking east at ABC News headquarters at 77 We...Image via Wikipedia
Faced with declining ratings and shriveling ad revenues, ABC News plans a major shake-up that could reduce its news division by 20 percent.

The Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC is hopeful that somewhere between 300 to 400 of the roughly 1,400  news division staffers will accept voluntary buyouts, but in any case, layoffs will help the network of Roone Arledge and Peter Jennings attain that goal.  As part of the changeover, the weekday and weekend staffs of World News and Good Morning America will be combined.  GMA, ABC's principal revenue provider, has experienced a 10 percent dropoff in viewers among advertiser demographic-desirable 25- to 54-year-old viewers, so George Stephanopolous better accelerate his kitchen baking and insipid banter skills.

Once the dust has settled, journalists who remain standing at ABC will be expected to go "digital," by recording, editing and producing their own stories. The anticipated staff reduction is the largest since Disney acquired ABC in 2001 when 125 news division jobs were lost. Misery loves company as earlier this month, CBS News turned off the lights at its Moscow, London and Los Angeles bureaus and slashed nearly 100 jobs (see "TUOL" post 2/1/10).

ABC News has gone from being "Rooned" to being ruined.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Miami Herald: Still Accepting News Tips But No Longer Cash Tips

The Miami HeraldImage via Wikipedia
The Reflections of a Newsosaur blog ( reports that The Miami Herald has abandoned its novel experiment begun last December of asking online readers for donations.

A cursory article in last Saturday's Herald acknowledged the end of the "tip jar" program, but offered no statistics on how much money the  program raised or any explanation about why the experiment was discontinued.  Herald Editor Anders Gyllenhaal reportedly sent an Email to Newsosaur saying the paper believed its request for donations from readers interfered with Haiti earthquake relief efforts. Apparently, the Herald fears its readers can't keep disasters separate in their minds.

For the past couple of months, at the bottom of each Herald Web page was a request for a voluntary donation, which stated in part: "If you value The Miami Herald's local news reporting and investigations, but prefer the convenience of the Internet, please consider a voluntary payment for the Web news that matters to you."

Not that the tireless staff of  "TUOL" is  cynical or anything, but The Miami Herald probably wouldn't have jettisoned the tip jar idea if the cash spigot were flowing, instead of dripping.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

On the Sunny Side of the Tweet

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase
Further evidence that the social media tidal wave is not just a passing fad comes from our friends at the San Francisco-based

The social networking and microblogging service reports that it is hosting 50 million tweets daily. The staggering figure--which amounts to 600 tweets per second--represents a seismic jump from last year's 2.5 million figure, and an unfathomable rise from the 5,000 daily tweets generated in 2007 by the masters of 140-character text messages.

Twitter boasts that it is attracting 73.5 million unique users monthly.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, February 22, 2010

FCC Asks $64,000 Question: Did Burnett Quiz Show Cheat?

Mark Burnett at his Hollywood Walk of Fame cer...Image via Wikipedia
Mark Burnett Productions, which is responsible for innovative tv fare such as The Apprentice, Survivor, and Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?, has evoked nostalgia among Federal Communications Commissioners--giving them a chance to revive the quiz show scandals of the 1950s.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The New York Times, the FCC has produced a letter written to the agency last December by the parent of a participant in  Our Little Genius, a Burnett-created quiz show that was derailed days before it was to debut on Fox Television after Burnett disclosed that some contestants may have received information before their scheduled appearance. An FCC probe may follow based on the letter from the unidentified parent that goes considerably further than that,  explicitly stating that a member of the show's production staff days before taping briefed the child contestant and his parents concerning potential topics and provided answers to at least four questions.

Eight episodes were already in the can when Our Little Genius was pulled from Fox's schedule.  Hosted by actor/comic Kevin Pollak, the show featured academic achieving kids ages 6 to 12 vying for hundreds of thousands of dollars by answering difficult questions. When the show was shelved, Mark Burnett Productions said it would pay the winnings to contestants who triumphed in the eight unaired episodes.

Pursuant to 47 U.S.C. sec. 508 of The Communications Act of 1934, titled Prohibited Practices in Case of Contests of Intellectual Knowledge, Intellectual Skill or Chance, it is unlawful intentionally to deceive the listening or viewing public by "supply[ing] to any contestant in a purportedly bona fide contest of intellectual knowledge or intellectual skill any special and secret assistance whereby the outcome of such contest will be in whole or in part prearranged or predetermined." The provision was enacted in response to contestants being fed answers on notorious quiz shows in the '50s, such as 21 and $64,000 Question, that shook viewers and the television industry alike and ended America's reign as a superpower. The last part isn't true, notwithstanding Robert Redford's Quiz Show (2000).

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Is NYT Biz Section Afraid to Go Out on a 'Slim'?

The New York Times building in New York, NY ac...Image via Wikipedia
When Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim pumped $250 million into The New York Times in 2009, a year after becoming a major shareholder in "The Gray Lady," the Times' business section did a front-page profile of its benefactor.

Now that Slim is embroiled in a controversy involving a chief rival and an investment banker, however, Big Money's James Ledbetter believes it's no accident that nary a word about the scandal, which has been duly covered by The Wall St. Journal and Reuters, has appeared in the Times.

According to a Reuters account, JP Morgan tried to sell a loan made to its long-term client Grupa Televisa to Slim. Provisions of the loan transaction purportedly would require Grupa Televisa to disclose any information about itself to the holder of the loan; in this case, its principal competitor.

Such intrigue involving two telecommunications giants and a major financial institution makes for a juicy story for the business press, as coverage by Reuters, The Wall St. Journal and Big Money attests, but the chances of the story seeing the light of day in the venerable New York Times appear to be none to Slim.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shield Law Bill Gets Airing in Mass. Legislature Next Week

The Massachusetts State-house in Boston, Massa...Image via Wikipedia
The Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary next week will conduct a public hearing Feb. 23 on House Bill 1650, which, if passed, would scratch the Commonwealth from the list of states yet to enact a shield law to prevent journalists from being compelled to disclose confidential sources to courts and government agencies.

HB 1650 would bring print and broadcast journalists under its umbrella, along with some bloggers. "bona fide news gathering," rather than specific employment, is the gauge that determines coverage under the bill. A blogger who routinely gathers and disseminates news would be shielded, for example.

A similar bill died in the last legislative session without emerging from the Judiciary Committee.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

National Enquirer Eligible for Pulitzer Prize After All

National Enquirer - 9/11 Commemorative IssueImage by StefZ via Flickr
The Pulitzer Prize Board has accepted submissions from supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer.

The Enquirer is in the running for the coveted journalism prize in two categories: Investigative Reporting and National News Reporting for breaking  the lurid scandal involving former U.S. Senator and Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards and his campaign videographer Rielle Hunter (see "TUOL" post 1/22/10). The Enquirer was first to report about the adulterous relationship, the out-of-wedlock child, and the ongoing federal grand jury probe of possible campaign fund misuse. Most recently, the paper alleged that Edwards and Hunter are engaged and living together in a $3.5 million beach house.  Edwards is separated from his wife, Elizabeth.

The Enquirer in recent years has bested the traditional mainstream media on political scandal stories, including the Sen.Gary Hart/Donna Rice affair and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's "love child."  A combination of persistent reporting and checkbook journalism--the Enquirer unapologetically pays sources--has brought the tabloid to the pantheon of journalistic excellence.

If the Enquirer wins, presumably executive editor Barry Levine will accept the award, rather than the spawn of Martian and Earthling canoodling about which the Enquirer has written in the past.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No Rush to Judgment on Proposed Settlement of Google Suit

Google Inc.Image via Wikipedia
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin heard arguments this week on the proposed settlement of the class-action suit involving Google's book-scanning initiative, but did not indicate when he would decide whether to accept the proffered resolution reached by the parties in October 2008.

As reported on the Jurist legal news and research Web site (, the U.S. Dept. of Justice recently filed a statement of interest requesting that Judge Chin jettison the settlement because of antitrust and copyright concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union also has weighed in against the proposed settlement, contending that it fails to protect the privacy of readers by allowing Google to create "digital dossiers" tracking data such as which books readers search, which pages they read, and how much time they spend on each page.

Google initially was sued separately by the Authors Guild, which sought to preserve the copyright rights of its members, and by a group of publishers, including McGraw-Hill and Simon & Schuster. Under the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, in return for payment of $125 million to authors and publishers of copyrighted works, Google could display online a maximum 20 percent of a copyrighted book's total pages and invite readers to purchase the remainder of any book viewed.

In December, a French court found Google and its book-scanning initiative liable for copyright infringement (see "TUOL" post 12/23/09).

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Ink-Stained Wretches Take to Social Media

Social Media Life - WorkstationImage by the tartanpodcast via Flickr
Whether curiosity or necessity is the motivating force, traditional journalists are being drawn to social media tools like, well, everyone else.

According to a survey of  341 journalists by a nonprofit think tank, the Society for New Communications Research ("SNCR"), nearly 70 percent of journalists questioned said they routinely use social networking sites, a 28 percent increase over the results of SNCR's initial poll in 2008.  Forty-eight percent of the journalists queried said they use Twitter or other microblogging sites, a 25 percent jump over 2008 poll findings, and 25 percent confessed to listening to podcasts.

Nearly 80 percent of the journalists participating in the survey believe bloggers have become important shapers of public opinion.  Thanks for noticing.

SNCR will present a web briefing of their findings on Feb. 25, and will publish their research in SNCR's Journal of New Communications Research later this month.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rowling Added as Defendant in Harry Potter Copyright Suit

The estate of the late Australian author Adrian Jacobs has added author JK Rowling as a defendant in its copyright infringement suit against Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, publisher of Rowling's hugely successful Harry Potter series.

The suit (see "TUOL" post 6/17/09) alleges that Rowling's fourth book in the Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), lifted liberally from Jacobs' book, The Adventures of Willy the Wizard No. 1: Livid Land.

Rowling denies ever hearing of Jacobs, and dismisses the accusations as unfounded and "absurd." The agent for the Jacobs estate described the dispute as a billion-dollar case, which is Voldemort reason why the matter wound up in litigation.


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Newspaper Ad Absolving Mayor Part of Libel Claim Settlement

keller texas night sceneImage by memorycardfull via Flickr
Since the seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S. Ct. 710 (1964), it's been a tough row to hoe for public officials involved in libel suits.  To prevail on a defamation claim, the public official has the burden of proving that the allegedly defamatory statements concerning him or her not only are false and harmed his or her reputation, but also that the statements were made with actual malice, that is, with knowledge that the statements were false or with reckless disregard of whether the statements were false.

But, according to a report in The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, that didn't stop former Keller (Tex.) Mayor Julie Tandy from hammering out a favorable, if unusal, settlement of her defamation claim against Keller resident Jack Brock. Besides forking over $50,000 to make Tandy "whole" from the damage she purportedly sustained from the allegedly libelous statements, Brock also has to dole out $900 for an ad in The Keller Citizen retracting the allegedly defamatory statements that appeared in an ad he ran in the Citizen May 4, 2007, eight days before the election in which incumbent Mayor Tandy was defeated.

Brock, who was embroiled in a condemnation proceeding dispute with the city concerning the acquisition of a drainage easement on property he owned, paid for an ad in The Keller Citizen in May 2007, that accused Tandy of engaging in fraudulent conduct by allegedly backdating her signature on certain documents and of voting to "steal" his property.  Consequently, the ad running in the Citizen pursuant to the parties' resolution of the suit specifically retracts the signature backdating charge, acknowledges that Tandy didn't even cast a vote in the matter at issue, and says that Tandy, in his view, did not engage in criminal conduct as Mayor.

The outcome is a favorable one for the ex-Mayor and also for The Keller Citizen, which winds up with revenues from two paid ads in the controversy, no small feat in these ad-hungry times for newspapers.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

UPDATE: Wall St. Journal 'Copy' Boy Kouwe Quits NY Times

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase
Confronted by his editors with accusations of multiple instances of plagiarizing passages from articles in The Wall St. Journal and Reuters (see "TUOL" post 2/16/10), business reporter Zachery Kouwe has resigned from The New York Times.

Kouwe, a former reporter for The New York Post and Dow Jones Newswires who joined the Times in 2008, contended that he never has fabricated or knowingly plagiarized a story and was in "complete shock" when editors revealed the findings of their probe that was triggered by a letter from Wall St. Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson complaining that Kouwe had wholesale copied from Journal business writer Amir Efrati's work. 

"Inadvertently" claiming others' creative efforts as one's own on at least six separate occasions is like "accidentally" backing one's car over an annoying neighbor four times.  What the heck Kouwe?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NYT Editors' Note Concedes Reporter Stole from Wall St. Journal

Bernard Madoff's mugshotImage via Wikipedia
Prompted by a letter from Wall St. Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson to Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times citing a purported half-dozen  instances of Times reporter Zachery Kouwe plagiarizing text from Journal writer Amir Efrati's Feb. 5 story concerning an agreement that froze the assets of relatives of Bernard Madoff, the Times published an Editor's Note acknowledging several articles over the past year in which Kouwe allegedly reused language from Journal and Reuters stories without attribution.

The Times said an internal investigation is ongoing and has yet to comment on the fate of Kouwe.  Appropriating the work of another reporter and taking credit for it is a serious ethical breach. Oddly, the Times Editor's Note states that nothing allegedly filched by Kouwe in his articles appears to be inaccurate. Is the Times lauding Kouwe for allegedly being a careful thief or damning him with faint praise by suggesting that at least he didn't make stories up out of whole cloth like former Times scribe Jayson Blair?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

UPDATE: O'Brien Dodges Contempt Order As Source Comes Forward

Today, Dodge City maintains part of its downto...Image via Wikipedia
An anonymous news source identified himself and freed Dodge City (Kan.) Daily Globe reporter Claire O'Brien from her pledge of confidentiality, allowing her to testify at an inquisition, thereby prompting Ford County District Court Judge Daniel Love to rescind a contempt citation against her that carried a $1,000 daily fine [see "TUOL" post 2/5/10].

O'Brien had conducted a jailhouse interview with  murder suspect Sam Bonilla that appeared in the Globe last Oct. 13 and quoted an unnamed source who alleged one of the two shooting victims had the backing of supporters who harbored anti-Hispanic sentiments and a cache of automatic weapons.  Prosecutors sought the reporter's notes and testimony concerning the source's identity, but O'Brien initially did not appear at the inquisition.

O'Brien gave testimony at the inquisition after her confidential source revealed himself late last week. The reporter remains under a subpoena should her testimony be sought at Bonilla's trial.  Kansas does not have a shield law protecting journalists from having to disclose to authorities information obtained under a pledge of confidentiality.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

UPDATE: U. Wisc. Settles Suit With College Paper

University of Wisconsin–MilwaukeeImage via Wikipedia
In a case that began more than a year ago, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee has settled a lawsuit with its college newspaper, The UWM Post, concerning an alleged violation of The Badger State's public records law (see "TUOL" post 11/16/09).

The Associated Press reports that the two sides settled, with the University agreeing to assume the paper's  nearly $12,000 in attorneys' fees and to turn over an unredacted version of the documents initially sought by the paper.  The Post wanted copies of the agendas, audio recordings, and minutes of meetings of  the university's student union board dating back to 2008 pursuant to the public records law [Wis. Stat. sec. 19.31-19.39], which the administration initially turned over, though the names of students and even audio tracks of  their voices were omitted, actions that the school claimed were mandated by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") [20 U.S.C. sec. 1232g].

FERPA is intended to protect student records, such as grades, but in this instance, was applied to a public body, albeit one composed of students.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, February 12, 2010

USA Today Staff Feeling (Fur)lough

USA TodayImage via Wikipedia
The good news for the roughly 1,500 workers at Gannett Co.'s USA Today is that they each will get to choose a week off between Feb. 28 and July 3.  The bad news is they won't be getting paid for the time off.

With ad pages down 10.5 percent in the last quarter,  the newspaper imposed the furlough and extended the year-old salary freeze another three months. The paper experienced a 17 percent drop in circulation for the six-month period that ended in Sept. '09. Most of the staff was forced to take a two-week unpaid furlough last year.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Judge Says Prosecutor Not Entitled to Know Identies of Anonymous Bloggers

Seal of Orange County, New YorkImage via Wikipedia
Orange County (N.Y.) Court Judge Nicholas De Rosa has quashed a  grand jury subpoena seeking the identities of two anonymous bloggers who posted on a newspaper's Web site concerning a story about the controversial resignation of a school superintendent.

The grand jury subpoenaed  Straus Newspapers' The Chronicle, a weekly covering Goshen and Chester, New York, to learn the names of the anonymous posters who commented on the resignation of former Chester Superintendent of Schools Helen Ann Livingston.

Judge DeRosa reviewed the anonymous messages from the bloggers in his chambers because grand jury documents are sealed. He concluded that the statements at issue were neither criminal nor did they constitute a noncriminal violation. He also held that the prosecution failed to prove the information sought was indispensable to the case being reviewed by the grand jury.  The district attorney has yet to disclose whether he plans to appeal Judge De Rosa's ruling.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Appeals Court: Lawyers May Have 1st A Right to Post-trial Jury Interviews

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...Image via Wikipedia
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit this week ruled in Sam Clyma v. Sunoco, Inc. (Case No. 08-5153) that attorneys may have the right, under the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to interview jurors in trials in which the attorneys were not involved.

The Oklahoma Employment Lawyers Association ("OELA") sought permission to interview jurors from a three-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act job bias trial.  The case was tried in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma where a court rule forbids attorneys from interviewing jurors without first obtaining permission from the court.

The 10th Circuit opinion suggests that if attorneys have such a 1st Amendment right to speak to the jurors, it is only to the extent that the lawyers' underlying purpose is to educate a segment of the bar.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Ninth Circuit Rejects Lobbyist Privacy Claim in FOIA Request

The seal of the U.S. National Security Agency....Image via Wikipedia
In Electronic Frontier Foundation v. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Justice (Case No. 09-17235), the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week rejected an invasion of privacy defense to a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request for disclosure of the identities of telecommunications companies' lobbyists.

 The EFF sought disclosure of the identities of lobbyists who successfully persuaded Congress to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that were involved in the government's warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans' phone calls carried out by the National Security Agency post 9/11. In affirming in part, and reversing in part, the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Michael Daly Hawkins wrote: "There is a clear public interest in public knowledge of the methods through which well-connected corporate lobbyists wield their influence."

The EFF in the past attempted to learn which telecommunications companies participated in the NSA surveillance program, but the companies were granted immunity from the FOIA requests.  Although it dismissed the lobbyist privacy argument, the 9th Circuit decision ordered the trial court to review the information sought by the EEF to determine whether it should be exempt from disclosure under the FOIA for other reasons, such as national security interests.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]