Articles Posted in Communications Law

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Plaintiffs are Cross, also known as Mikel Knight, a country rap artist, and his businesses. Two vans, carrying independent contractors promoting Knight’s music, were involved in accidents that resulted in two deaths. “Families Against Mikel Knight,” apparently created by relatives of the accident victims, posted a Facebook page, which, plaintiffs claimed, incited violence and generated death threats against Knight. Plaintiffs sought to have the page removed. Facebook refused. Facebook filed a special motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ subsequent suit, which alleged breach of written contract; negligent misrepresentation; negligent interference with prospective economic relations; breach of Civil Code section 3344; violation of common law right of publicity; and unlawful and unfair business practices. The trial court held that the complaint was based on protected activity, that plaintiffs could not prevail on the first three causes of action, and granted the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16) motion as to them but denied the motion as to the three other causes of action. The court of appeal ruled in favor of Facebook and ordered that the complaint be stricken, noting that Facebook derived no benefit from any use of Knight’s name or likeness. View "Cross v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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ZL provides email archiving, eDiscovery, and compliance support to businesses nationwide. Glassdoor operates a website on which people may anonymously express opinions regarding employers. Individuals representing themselves as current or former ZL employees posted anonymous reviews on Glassdoor‘s website criticizing ZL‘s management and work environment. ZL filed a complaint against those individuals, naming them as Doe defendants and alleging libel per se (Civil Code 45) and online impersonation (Penal Code 528.5) to the extent any of them was not a ZL employee. ZL served a subpoena on Glassdoor, requesting identification and contact information for defendants. Glassdoor objected, arguing: violation of the First Amendment and California Constitution privacy rights; the posted statements were “protected opinion, patently hyperbolic, not harmful to reputation,” or uncontested statements of fact; Glassdoor‘s reputation would be harmed by disclosure; and, ZL was obligated to make a prima facie showing the statements were libelous before it could compel disclosure. The court denied ZL’s motion to compel. More than a year later, the court dismissed the action because of ZL‘s failure to serve the defendants. The court of appeal reversed. While an author‘s decision to remain anonymous is protected by the Constitution, a reasonable fact finder could conclude all of the reviews contained statements that declared or implied provably false assertions of fact, providing a legally sufficient basis for a defamation cause of action. View "ZL Technologies v. Doe" on Justia Law

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Argentieri was an attorney for Ceglia in Ceglia’s suit against Zuckerberg and Facebook. That suit was dismissed as a fraud on the court and for spoliation of evidence. Zuckerberg and Facebook then sued Argentieri for malicious prosecution and sent a message to the press, stating that Argentieri knew the suit was based on forged documents. Argentieri sued for defamation. The trial court struck the complaint under the anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute (Code Civ. Proc., 425.16). The court of appeals affirmed, rejecting Argentieri’s argument that the court erred in concluding that he had not demonstrated a probability of prevailing on his defamation claim. Although the statement underlying Argentieri’s defamation claim was not subject to the litigation privilege of Civil Code 47(b), it was subject to the fair and true reporting privilege of section 47(d). He had no probability of prevailing on his claim. View "Argentieri v. Zuckerberg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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This case arose out of the re-publication and electronic distribution of an outdated newspaper article concerning Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center, Inc. dba Sovereign Health of California (Sovereign) and one of the treatment centers it operates. Following the re-publication, which occurred in an electronic newsletter edited and published by Leonard Buschel, Sovereign sued Buschel and a nonprofit he founded, Writers in Treatment, Inc. (Writers), seeking injunctive relief and damages for alleged harm caused by supposed false statements made in the newsletter. Buschel and Writers filed a special motion to strike the complaint under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute). The trial court denied the motion; Buschel and Writers appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying the motion because Sovereign’s claims did not arise from activity protected by the anti-SLAPP statute. View "Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center v. Buschel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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Plaintiff, a 51-year-old African- and Latino-American, began working for CNN in 1996 and became a producer in 2000. In 2004, Janos became plaintiff‘s supervisor. Plaintiff received no further promotions. The final opening for which plaintiff applied was offered to a younger, Caucasian candidate with less experience. Plaintiff alleges that he repeatedly complained about CNN‘s failure to promote African-American men. In 2005 plaintiff made a written complaint to Janos. Allegedly in retaliation, Janos issued Plaintiff a “Written Warning Regarding Performance.” In 2010 plaintiff‘s wife began fertility treatments paid for by CNN-provided health insurance; plaintiff claims that the infertility constituted a disability under Government Code 12926(k). Plaintiff‘s wife had twins in 2013. Plaintiff took five weeks of paternity leave. Plaintiff alleges that upon plaintiff‘s return to work, Janos gave high-profile assignments to a younger Caucasian man with less experience than plaintiff. In 2014, plaintiff submitted a story to an editor, who expressed concern about similarity to another report. The editor informed Janos, who, without talking to plaintiff, decided not to publish the story. Janos initiated an audit of plaintiff‘s work and ultimately fired plaintiff. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and defamation. Defendants filed a special motion to strike all causes of action (Code of Civil Procedure, 425.16, anti-SLAPP motion), submitting evidence of plagiarism in plaintiff’s story. The court of appeal reversed the trial court’s grant of the anti-SLAPP motion. This is a private employment discrimination and retaliation case, not an action to prevent defendants from exercising their First Amendment rights. Defendants may have a legitimate defense but the merits of that defense should be resolved through the normal litigation process, not at the initial phase of this action. View "Wilson v. Cable News Network Inc." on Justia Law

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Mazzaferro, a “vexatious litigant,” was replaced as trustee of a living trust. Mazzaferro’s son-in-law, Parisi, the conservator for the trust beneficiary, a dependent adult, alleged financial abuse and fraud by Mazzaferro. Parisi sought protection for himself and his wife and three adult children from a campaign of harassment by Mazzaferro, citing 21 litigation matters, all of which were resolved in Parisi‘s favor. Parisi noted Mazzaferro‘s harassment of Parisi‘s daughter at her workplace and by contacting her employer. Mazzaferro also wrote letters accusing Parisi of criminal activity and attempting to have Parisi, a probation officer, fired. Mazzaferro admitted writing the letters at issue, but insisted their contents were true, and denied that the incidents involving his granddaughter occurred. The judge made credibility findings, telling Mazzaferro, “I do not believe you,” and issued the requested restraining order. In the meantime, in separate proceedings, Mazzaferro unsuccessfully sought an elder abuse restraining order against Parisi; Mazzaferro was ordered to pay Parisi‘s attorney fees. Mazzaferro‘s application for permission, as a vexatious litigant, to appeal the restraining order was granted on July 24, 2015.9. Rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and allegations of prior restraint, the court of appeal remanded to the trial court for a more precise definition of the prohibited conduct. View "Parisi v. Mazzaferro" on Justia Law

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The California Integrated Waste Management Act obligated local agencies to enact comprehensive waste management plans that would eventually divert half of their trash from landfills, Pub. Res. Code, 41780(a)(1), (2), and authorized local governments to issue franchises and licenses to private entities to provide services relating to the collection, transport, handling and disposal of solid waste. Plaintiff hauls waste under franchise agreements with cities in Sonoma County. Defendant, a waste management consultant, prepared a report for one of plaintiff’s competitors that questioned the accuracy of statements in plaintiff’s public reports about the percentages of the waste materials it collected that were recycled and thereby diverted from landfills. Plaintiff’s complaint alleged defendants’ report was false and defamatory and injured plaintiff’s business. Defendant filed an “anti-SLAPP” motion to dismiss. The trial court held defendants met their burden of showing plaintiff’s claims involve speech concerning a matter of public interest and are covered by the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16 -425.18.4, but denied defendants’ motion finding that plaintiff demonstrated a probability of success on the merits. The court of appeal reversed, plaintiff failed to make out a prima facie case of falsity regarding defendants’ estimated diversion rates. View "Industrial Waste & Debris Box Service v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, “telephone corporations” require installation of wireless facilities, including antennas, transmitters, and power supplies, on existing utility poles in the city’s rights-of-way. In 2011, San Francisco adopted an ordinance, requiring Plaintiffs to obtain a permit before installing or modifying any wireless facility in the public right-of-way, citing the need “to regulate placement … that will diminish the City’s beauty.” The ordinance required a showing of technological or economic necessity and created three “Tiers” of facilities based on equipment size. It conditioned approval for Tiers II and III on aesthetic approval; locations designated “Planning Protected” or “Zoning Protected,” or “Park Protected,” triggered different aesthetic standards. Any Tier III facility required a finding that “a Tier II Facility is insufficient to meet the Applicant’s service needs.” “Any person” could protest tentative approval of a Tier III application. The trial court held that the modification provisions violated the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act; provisions conditioning approval on economic or technological necessity, were preempted by section 7901. The aesthetics-based compatibility standards were not preempted. An amended ordinance, enacted in response, retained the basic permitting structure, but removed the size-based tiers, requiring compliance with aesthetics-based standards based on location. The court of appeal reversed, finding that the ordinance was not preempted. View "T-Mobile W., LLC v. City & Cnty. of. San Francisco" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Eureka Police Sergeant Laird and others arrested a minor, after a chase in which the minor “was pushed to the ground, fell to the ground, or just gave up and laid on the ground.” A patrol car’s mobile audio-video recording system produced videos of the arrest. A citizen lodged a complaint regarding the handling of the minor. The Department conducted an investigation. Laird was charged with misdemeanor assault by a police officer without lawful necessity and making a false report. After reviewing the evidence, including the arrest video, experts determined Laird did not use excessive force. The prosecution dismissed the charges. In 2013-2014, Greenson wrote articles in local newspapers about the arrest and subsequent litigation. Greenson's request under the California Public Records Act (Gov. Code 6250), seeking disclosure of the arrest video, was denied. The city cited discretionary exemptions for personnel records and investigative files,”Penal Code sections 832.7, 832.8. Greenson then filed a request under Welfare and Institutions Code section 827, which authorizes public disclosure of confidential juvenile records under limited circumstances. The court of appeal affirmed that the arrest video is not a personnel record protected by the statutes. and the order requiring the video's release. View "City of Eureka v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Eureka Police Sergeant Laird and other officers arrested a minor, after a chase in which the minor “was pushed to the ground, fell to the ground, or just gave up and laid on the ground.” A patrol car’s mobile audio-video recording system produced videos of the arrest. A citizen lodged a complaint regarding the handling of the minor. The Department conducted an investigation. Sergeant Laird was charged with misdemeanor assault by a police officer without lawful necessity and making a false report. After reviewing the evidence, including the arrest video, experts determined Laird did not use excessive force. The prosecution dismissed the charges. In 2013-2014, Greenson wrote articles in local newspapers about the arrest and subsequent litigation. Greenson filed a California Public Records Act (Gov. Code 6250) request seeking disclosure of the arrest video. The city denied the request, citing discretionary exemptions for personnel records and investigative files, Penal Code sections 832.7, 832.8. Greenson then filed a request under Welfare and Institutions Code section 827, which authorizes public disclosure of confidential juvenile records under limited circumstances. The court of appeal affirmed that the arrest video is not a personnel record protected by the statutes. and an order requiring release of the video. View "City of Eureka v. Superior Court" on Justia Law