Defamation, Media Law and First Amendment
McKenna Long & Aldridge’s Defamation, Media Law and First Amendment team includes attorneys with decades of experience representing newspaper, magazine, and alternative media publishers, radio and television broadcasters, authors, documentary and film makers, Internet service providers, web publishers, internet businesses, journalists, entertainment personalities, government agencies, private corporations and others in a broad range of libel, slander, privacy, publicity, access, newsgathering, and related First Amendment issues, including copyright and trademark litigation. Our First Amendment team includes attorneys consistently recognized and honored as among the nation’s premier libel and First Amendment practitioners.
Areas of Expertise
Defamation, Privacy and Newsgathering Liability Litigation
Our libel and First Amendment team of attorneys is skilled at handling a broad spectrum of matters for our clients, with an emphasis on defense of defamation claims. For example, our attorneys recently obtained complete victories on behalf of John and Patsy Ramsey in two libel cases alleging that the Ramseys defamed two persons who were named in the Ramseys’ book as potential suspects in the murder of their daughter, JonBenet Ramsey. Our libel and First Amendment attorneys have also successfully defended corporations accused of defamation arising from aggressive marketing campaigns.
In addition to their expertise in the defense of libel and slander claims, our team also regularly defends its clients against claims for invasion of privacy; trade and product disparagement; misappropriation of name, likeness or right of publicity; and other causes of action asserting injury to reputation or emotional distress arising from newsgathering activities and publication. Our First Amendment attorneys educate our media clients about the lawful use of undisclosed recording devices, hidden cameras, reporter’s promises of confidentiality and other newsgathering techniques and defend our clients in litigation based on such activities.
A major goal of McKenna Long & Aldridge’s First Amendment and libel advocacy is the proactive limitation of defamation liability risks for its clients while preserving the clients’ ability to aggressively compete in their industries and market their products. Our libel and First Amendment attorneys are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to advise their clients on publication risks and help edit and revise potentially actionable statements to avoid preventable liability.
Reporter’s Privilege/Subpoenas to Journalists and Media Entities
More than ever before, journalists and print and broadcast media entities are being subject to subpoena in civil, criminal and administrative tribunals. Our First Amendment team has substantial experience defending against and negotiating the scope of subpoenas for documents, testimony, B-roll and outtake footage and compelled disclosure of confidential sources. Our attorneys understand that an effective and independent media depends upon the ability of journalists to cultivate sources and witness cooperation, and have successfully quashed or negotiated the narrowing of subpoenas which threaten these essential newsgathering functions.
Access and Open Records
Our First Amendment attorneys regularly assist our mass media clients with access to government and court proceedings in local, state and federal matters, and in challenges to improper efforts by courts and governments to seal information of public interest or hold meetings behind closed doors. We are frequently called upon on an emergency basis to ensure media and public access to high profile court proceedings. Our attorneys are also expert in the Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws and frequently advise our media clients on effective use of these important newsgathering tools.
Civil Rights, Censorship and Content Legislation
Our First Amendment attorneys are also experts in the doctrine prohibiting prior restraints, student speech rights, legislation restricting or prohibiting speech or expressive conduct, protections for anonymous speech (including on-line blogging and commentary) and judicial and campaign speech restrictions. Our attorneys are frequently engaged to defeat attempts to use the courts to enjoin publication of challenged content.
McKenna Long & Aldridge prides itself on its ability to provide cost-effective, timely, and experienced defamation and First Amendment representation to its clients. Some of its recent representative matters include:
- Successful defense of John and (the late) Patsy Ramsey in two federal court libel lawsuits brought by persons named as suspects in the Ramseys' book, The Death of Innocence; prevailed on summary judgment in 93-page ruling which held that John and Patsy Ramsey were "probably innocent" in connection with the death of their daughter.
- Successful pursuit of First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of USA Today against the City of Atlanta Department of Aviation over distribution of newspapers in the Atlanta airport; suit lasted for a decade, provided in the words of the federal judge, "substantial public benefit" and resulted in an award to USA Today of more than $750,000 in legal fees.
- Obtained dismissal of defamation and emotional distress claims on behalf of broadcast news client under Georgia’s Anti-SLAPP statute.
- Successful emergency motion for media access to closed voir dire proceedings in the trial of a police officer accused of conspiracy in the shooting death of a 92 year-old south Atlanta woman.
- Successfully defeated attempt by the accused shooter of an Atlanta judge to obtain media gag order prohibiting television news program from airing a pre-trial interview with the victim.
- Obtained summary judgment on libel and slander claims asserted against local and national broadcast networks arising from news reports about an Atlanta night club shooting during the 2007 BET awards weekend festivities.
- Numerous summary judgments and dismissals in defense of libel and privacy lawsuits on behalf of broadcast and print media and other clients; verdicts for defendants in jury trials of libel and privacy lawsuits.