Media Freedoms

Libel Defense

Montgomery McCracken obtained summary judgment on behalf of a newspaper in a libel case based on thirty-five articles and editorials that focused on the relationship between a construction contractor and a municipality. The challenge for defense counsel was the voluminous record consisting of dozens of depositions and thousands of documents, making it difficult for a judge to grant a dispositive motion. We persuaded the judge to enter a case management order permitting serial summary judgment motions to allow the court to consider one issue at a time without having to analyze the entire factual record. We then filed a motion resulting in a ruling that plaintiff was a limited purpose public figure, although an involuntary one. This ruling shifted the burden to plaintiff to come forward with evidence of “actual malice,” a burden of proof the plaintiff could not meet. The summary judgment for the newspaper was not appealed.