Protecting First Amendment Freedoms and Our Clients’ Businesses and Reputations
Among the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution are freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Often these rights are challenged and must be vigorously defended in order to protect brands and reputations. With the proliferation of digital and social media and news cycles moving at a frenzied pace, free speech issues are on the rise and increasingly more complex.
Saul Ewing attorneys regularly represent traditional and online media, hospitals, public and private companies across industries, nonprofit organizations, and individuals, including celebrities/entertainers, physicians, executives and authors, in a variety of litigation cases. Our attorneys are resourceful and aggressive in handling their defamation, invasion of privacy, and First Amendment matters involving issues such as commercial speech, Internet law, advertising, trademarks and copyrights, and the fair-use doctrine. We also advise clients on crisis management as well as state and federal records requests/access.
Our team includes seasoned litigators who have also contributed to thought leadership in this area by investing more than 10 years authoring the Massachusetts Superior Court Jury Instructions on Defamation and more than five years co-editing the Massachusetts Superior Court Jury Instructions on Civil Practice. We also work with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, representing clients on a pro bono basis bringing First Amendment and other constitutional claims.
For a selection of our First Amendment and media representations, click here.
- Obtained more than a million-dollar verdict on behalf of an international pharmaceutical company against its former CEO for fraud, conversion and breach of fiduciary duty, while also obtaining dismissal of the CEO’s claims for defamation. On appeal, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court not only affirmed the dismissal, but issued a seminal decision on the issue of limited purpose public figures and the proof required under the First Amendment. A former chief justice publicly recognized this as one of her “notable decisions” under the category of free speech.
- Represented a Pennsylvania newspaper in an important win for editorial freedom after successfully securing the dismissal of all claims filed against it, its holding company and a reporter by a college athlete arrested and accused of aggravated assault. The student-athlete claimed that publication of two truthful articles—containing publicly available information—gave rise to claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy by way of an unreasonable intrusion and “false light” invasion of privacy. The plaintiff argued that the newspaper improperly excluded “exonerating” information that the plaintiff’s representative sent to the newspaper prior to publication. In dismissing the claims, the court recognized that there was nothing false or intrusive about any information printed.
- Represented an American daily newspaper in a defamation suit involving the FBI.
- Defended a newspaper in a libel action filed by a prisoner against members of the media and former judges relating to various judicial hearings. Our attorneys successfully moved to dismiss the lawsuit at the Rule12(b)(6) stage, which was granted on March 1, 2016. In 2017, our attorneys successfully obtained the dismissal of the plaintiff’s appeal.
- Represented a newspaper in a copyright action filed by a photographer against it and numerous local and national media outlets for using a tweet with an embedded photo while reporting on a newsworthy story involving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the Boston Celtics.
- Defended a newspaper in a suit by Tom Scholz, one of the founders of the rock and roll band BOSTON, based on articles reporting on the suicide of former leader singer Brad Delp. Scholz claimed that the articles defamed him by “implying” that he was responsible for the suicide. The trial court granted summary judgment, ruling that the articles accurately reported the non-actionable opinions of Brad Delp’s friends and family. After obtaining summary judgment, our attorneys successfully moved for costs, arguing that such lawsuits chill the free expressions of opinion. The court agreed and awarded approximately $132,000 in costs. Scholz then appealed. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court took the case on direct appellate review and then issued a seminal decision on the law governing opinion in affirming the underlying summary judgment decision.
- Represented a National Football League sports team in a suit brought by a disgruntled fan alleging a First Amendment right to exhibit certain inflammatory signs at football games.
- Represented a health systems company in a defamation action filed by a former employee after the company terminated his privileges in the wake of patient deaths. The former employee, a nationally known surgeon, claimed that the company and its senior officers defamed him, conspired to defame him and interfered with various advantageous relationships. Our attorneys secured the dismissal of all the defamation-related claims at the motion to dismiss stage.
- Represented a well-known lawyer and public official in bringing a defamation lawsuit after he was publicly accused of bribing judges, lawyers and members of law enforcement. The defendant attempted to bring counterclaims that our attorneys were able to dismiss under the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute and obtain an award of legal fees.
- Represented a group of individuals and nonprofit entities who had been sued by a local mosque for defamation and a “conspiracy to defame” arising from concerns about its leaders. After zealous discovery, the claims were dismissed for no consideration, no retractions and no apologies.
- Represented a life sciences company in stopping a high-profile doctor from making defamatory posts and public statements that accused the company of Medicare fraud and other alleged criminal behavior.
- Assisted with argument preparation on behalf of petitioners before the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the validity of portions of a bankruptcy statute on First Amendment grounds.
- Defended a media company and its radio station facing a defamation and invasion of privacy (false light) case.
- Assisted in the defense of the executor of an estate facing libel and defamation allegations in connection with statements contained in a biography about the Pulitzer Prize-winning decedent regarding a mistress.
- Represented numerous higher education institutions regarding First Amendment issues, including protests by students on campus and other student speech issues.