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.

1 comment:

Lauren Chustz said...

It is important that the motion for summary judgment was denied in the case of Latrell Sprewell. Being a public figure, Sprewell does have to watch out for his reputation even if the rumors are true. Proving that actual malice occurred will now be easier for Sprewell.
I find it very interesting that the "Shield Law" is being suspended here just as in another case: Judith Miller. She was jailed for contempt because she would not disclose her source's name. The New York shield law says, "Absolute protection for confidential news. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or specific law to the contrary." Judith Miller possibly violated a law; it is understandable that she was jailed for contempt. I do not think that the NY Post should have this right suspended, because they broke no laws that would waive this right.