Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Shield law fails to protect NY Post

In a $40 million defamation case, a New York judge has granted former New York Knick Latrell Sprewell's motion to preclude the New York Post from relying on confidential sources in its motion for summary judgment and consequently denied the motion in part, according to a report in the New York Law Journal. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Marcy S. Friedman wrote:
"The identity of the confidential sources is ... clearly material to this action as it bears directly on the issue of malice -- specifically, whether the confidential eyewitnesses were reliable sources for the articles or whether defendants' reliance upon them showed a reckless disregard for the truth. This court [finds] that defendants have put the [Shield Law's] privilege in issue, and that they may not rely on the confidential sources in support of their showing on their summary judgment motion that they did not act with malice."
Sprewell claims that the paper damaged his reputation by reporting that he had fractured his hand swinging at someone during a party on his boat. The newspaper invoked the state shield law in refusing to identify its source. To this, the judge replied:
"[W]hile the Shield Law exempts professional journalists from contempt for refusal to disclose confidential sources, 'the Legislature has never established an absolute right or granted journalists complete immunity from all legal consequences of refusing to disclose evidence relating to a news source.'"
The ruling means that the case may now proceed to trial.

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