Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Libel Win Pit Newspaper Against Newspaper

Always good news when a newspaper beats a libel lawsuit, but in an ironic twist to a Texas case decided last week, the victorious newspaper was defending itself against a plaintiff that was also a newspaper. As Tex Parte Blog reports, the Sept. 20 ruling from the state's 8th Court of Appeals was a victory for Belo Corp., publisher of The Dallas Morning News. The suit had been brought by the Mexican company Publicaciones Paso Del Norte, publisher of El Diario, after the Dallas paper ran an article suggesting that the Mexican paper may have soft-peddled its reporting of the murders of some 400 women in Juarez, Mexico. The appeals court concluded that there was "less than a scintilla of evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact concerning actual malice" and entered summary judgment dismissing the case.

Justice Giveth; Justice Taketh Away

Adjacent news items from the Web site of The Coalition of Journalists for Open Government offer in ironic illustration of public-access hypocrisy by the U.S. Justice Department. First comes the good news: The Justice Department has directed all federal departments and agencies that have an FOIA backlog to post a plan by Nov. 1 for reducing the backlog over the next three years. Here is the DOJ memo.

But no sooner does DOJ tell other federal entities to come up with plans for improving public access than it takes steps to cut off public access. CJOG points to Marcia Coyle's Sept. 17 report in the National Law Journal that DOJ has asked the federal judiciary to eliminate public Internet access to plea agreements in criminal case files and all related docket notations. Presently, these are available through the judiciary's PACER system.

The judiciary is seeking public comment on DOJ's request. Comments must be filed by Oct. 26. If you oppose further restrictions on public access to government information, make your voice heard by filing a comment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

NYT: A Shield for the Public

Yesterday's New York Times editorial, A Shield for the Public, puts the emphasis where it should be in supporting the federal shield bill. The key point is that a shield bill is not needed to protect journalists, it is needed to protect the public's right to know. If sources cannot be assured of confidentiality, they will not come forward to reveal wrongdoing in government and business. Here is how the Times puts it:
"For freedom of the press to be more than a promise and for the public to be kept informed about the doings of its government, especially the doings that the government does not want known, reporters must be able to pursue the news wherever it takes them. One of the most valuable tools they have is the ability to protect the names of confidential sources — people who provide vital information at the risk of their jobs, their careers and sometimes even their lives."

Podcast: Toy Safety, the View from China

The label "Made in China" is under a lot of scrutiny as of late. On the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer this week, we talk to two experts resident in China for their perspective on how governments and manufacturers can help ensure toy and product safety. Joining us as guests for this program are:
  • Peter Dean, a professor of product and toy design in the School of Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a former U.S. toy industry executive.
  • Arthur Kroeber, managing director and head of research at Dragonomics in Beijing, who is also a regular contributor to the opinion page of the Financial Times.
Listen to or download the full program at this page.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Podcast: Human Rights Lawyers

Lawyers who devote substantial time to promoting international human rights are our focus this week on the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer. Joining my cohost J. Craig Williams and me to discuss their work in this field are:
  • Jerome J. Shestack, the former ABA president (1997-98)who is now of counsel to Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen in Philadelphia. Shestack's distinguished career includes having been U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights under President Jimmy Carter, president of the International League for Human Rights, founder of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First) and general counsel to Amnesty International in the United States.
Listen to or download this week's program from this page.