N.J. High Court To Review If Web Posters Can Invoke Shield Law

September 20, 2010 – In The News
New Jersey Law Journal

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Shellee Hale, a blogger from Washington state sued for defamation over her postings on an Internet bulletin board, can raise New Jersey's statutory protection of news reporters' sources and editorial processes. So far, a trial judge and the Appellate Division have said no, finding the privilege inapplicable to online posters not engaged in gathering or disseminating news. Both found that although Hale runs a web site reporting on technical and criminal activity in the adult entertainment industry, she was not acting in that capacity when she posted statements on another site that were critical of Too Much Media, a Freehold software company.

Jeffrey Pollock represents Hale in the case. Pollack urged the court to review the case, arguing in his May 21 brief that the published appeals court ruling “has now shattered the Shield Law’s broad reach.” Pollock argued that “despite paying lip service to the Legislature's intent and the Court's admonitions to construe the Shield Law as broadly as possible, the Appellate Division's decision rewrote the Shield Law to bar Hale and her source from its protections. It subjectively assessed the competence of Hale's investigation and reporting instead of focusing on Hale's disclosed intent – unchallenged by plaintiffs – to investigate and report on issues of public concern.”

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