September 15, 2006
Fifth Circuit Affirms Lower Court Dismissal in Defamation Case; Lack of Personal Jurisdiction
In Ouazzani-Chahdi v. Greensboro News & Record, the plaintiff sued a Greensboro, North Carolina, newspaper claiming defamation. The lower court dismissed for lack for personal jurisdiction. The U. S. Fifth Circuit has affirmed.
"In 2004 the News & Record published a story about sham marriages used by immigrants to obtain United States citizenship illegally....The article focused on a local immigration attorney, Manlin Chee....One of these marriages was that of Ouazzani-Chahdi, who had hired Chee to represent him...Ouazzani-Chahdi, who used to reside in North Carolina, is now a Texas citizen. The story alleged...that Ouazzani-Chahdi had married to obtain permanent legal resident status. The lawyer stated that had Ouazzani-Chahdi's ex-wife knwon that this was his motivation she would not have married him. Ouazzani-Chahdi sued News & Record in Texas state court, asserting that the defamatory article had caused him physical and reputational harm. News & Record removed to federal court...then successfully moved...to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction....Ouazzani-Chahdi appeals only the finding that the court lacked specific jurisdiction."
The Fifth Circuit examined whether it could exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant. "Texas's long-arm statute reaches to the limits permitted by the Constitution, so the inquiry collapses into whether the exercise of jurisdiction over News & Record would offend due process....Specific jurisdiction in suits alleging an intentional tort based on the publication of defamatory material exists for (1) publication with adequate circulation in the forum state or (2) an author or publisher who "aims" a story at the state knowing that the "effects" of the story will be felt there...." The Court determined that under the Calder test, "News & Record did not sufficiently "aim" its conduct toward Texas such that a Texas court can exercise personal jurisdiction. Ouazzani-Chahdi bases his argument in large part on the availability of his biographical information, including his Texas residency, on the internet. If one enters his name into particular internet search engines, one result will be a website indicating that he is employed by a Houston law firm. He thus asserts that even if News & Record was unaware that he resided in Texas, this could be discovered with minimal effort. We must resolve all factual disputes in favor of Ouazzani-Chahdi. Despite this, the sole fact that News & Record knew, or could have determined through an internet search, that Ouazzani-Chahdi now works at a Texas firm is insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction under Calder....As discussed...there is no evidence, other than the fact of a mere three subscriptions, that defendants "aimed" any conduct toward Texas."
The case is Ouazzani-Chahdi v. Greensboro News & Record, 05-20957. Read the entire opinion here.
A New Blog of Interest to Media Law Types
Hollywood Reporter's Steve Bryant is writing a new blog, Reel Pop Blog, which tracks new media doings. He also provides reviews and lots of video links.
Missing Tot's Mother Kills Herself
Melinda Duckett, the mother of a two-year-old Florida boy who has been missing for over two weeks went to her grandparents' home and shot herself on September 8. Her family maintain the strain of the boy's disappearance and the media's inquisitiveness were too much for her. Duckett had given an interview to CNN's Nancy Grace the day before. Police and the FBI have not said Duckett is a suspect in her son's disappearance but are investigating her activities. Read more here. See the Missing Persons flyer on Trenton Duckett here.
September 13, 2006
DOJ Obtains Plea Agreement from "Girls Gone Wild" Production Company For Failure to Maintain Records
Mantra Films, which is more familiar as the company that produces the "Girls Gone Wild" videos, has entered into a plea agreement with the Department of Justice for failing to maintain records of the ages and identities of some of its performers under Section 2257 of Title 18 of the USC which requires such documentation. The plea agreement is believed to be the first of its kind. Mantra will pay $1.6 million in fines. Read more in a press release here. Read the deferred prosecution agreement here and see links to other documents.
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Charges Journalist With Contempt for Listing Witness Names
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has charged journalist Domagoj Margetic with contempt of the tribunal for listing the names of two witnesses on his website. The ICTY has been aggressive in charging journalists who publicize the names of witnesses that appear before the tribunal in violation of tribunal orders not to do so. Last month it convicted and fined Josip Jovic 20,000 Euros for revealing such information in violation of a similar order. Read more here.
September 12, 2006
Sean Combs No Longer Diddy
Sean Combs has agreed that no longer to be a "Diddy" in England. Music producer Richard "Diddy" Dearlove had sued him for unfair competition. The two reached an out of court settlement. Read more here.
New California Statute Prohibits Taking More than 25 Copies of Free Newspapers to Sell or Barter Them...
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law AB 2612 that makes it a crime to take more than 25 copies of a free newspaper "to sell or barter the papers, to recycle the papers for cash or other payment, to harm a competitor or to prevent others from reading the paper."
According to the text of the bill:
"...No person shall take more than twenty-five (25) copies of the
current issue of a free or complimentary newspaper if done with the
intent to do one or more of the following:
(1) Recycle the newspapers for cash or other payment.
(2) Sell or barter the newspaper.
(3) Deprive others of the opportunity to read or enjoy the
(4) Harm a business competitor.
(c) This section does not apply to the owner or operator of the
newsrack in which the copies are placed, the owner or operator of the
property on which the newsrack is placed, the publisher, the
printer, the distributor, the deliverer of the newspaper, or to any
advertiser in that issue, or to any other person who has the express
permission to do so from any of these entities.
(d) Any newspaper publisher may provide express permission to take
more than twenty-five (25) copies of the current issue of a free or
complimentary newspaper by indicating on the newsrack or in the
newspaper itself, that people may take a greater number of copies if
(e) A first violation of subdivision (b) shall be an infraction
punishable by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250).
A second or subsequent violation shall be punishable as an infraction
or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction under this section is
punishable by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500),
imprisonment of up to 10 days in a county jail, or by both that fine
and imprisonment. The court may order community service in lieu of
the punishment otherwise provided for an infraction or misdemeanor in
the amount of 20 hours for an infraction, and 40 hours for a
misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction under this section shall not
constitute a conviction for petty theft...."
The new law takes effect January 1, 2007.
According to the Governor's office, "In Nov. 2002, a local Bay Area politician stole more than 1,000 copies of a free newspaper that did not endorse his reelection. The politician was only able to be charged with petty theft. The newspapers were removed and immediately trashed. In a separate incident in May 2002, a free college paper had several thousand copies stolen by a group that did not agree with the newspaper's editorial content. Recently in Chula Vista and the greater San Diego area, an individual removed entire bundles from news racks and transported them across the border where he sold them to recyclers in Mexico." Read the Governor's office press release about the new law here.
The New York Times on ABC 9/11 Docudrama
Edward Wyatt of the New York Times discusses reaction and response to the first part of the ABC miniseries "The Path to 9/11" here. The network made some last minute changes to the film after Clinton administration official complained that it was inaccurate and contained fabricated dialogue. Wyatt points out, however, that mistakes remained in the version broadcast, including a scene that put one of the hijackers on the wrong plane. Here's a story from the BBC about the broadcast, and a short piece from the Washington Post.
September 11, 2006
First Amendment Project Auction Update
The First Amendment Project Auction is underway. David Greene of the First Amendment Project notes that this year's authors include journalist and author Carl Hiassen, lawyers-authors Tim Green and Philip Margolin, and writers Francine Prose and Stephen Elliott. See the complete list here. The auction began September 7 and runs through September 23. The proceeds provide funds to defend the cause of free speech and a free press.
My earlier post erroneously listed last year's authors. Thanks to David for the correction.
British Laws Govern Flow of Info about Suspects in Plot to Blow Up Airliners, Other Pending Trials
The AP's Paisley Dodds writes that the current balance in British law between the right to know and the defendant's right to a fair trial will limit the amount of information that journalists can print about the suspects in the most recent terror plot against the U.S. Limitations on what media may publish about defendants and about ongoing trials are routine, but some media have challenged bans and one, the Sunday Mirror, printed an article, that led to a fine for contempt of court. Read more here.