Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fourth Circuit issues Section 1983 opinion on First Amendment matters (and finds Baltimore Sun reporters are sissies)

In The Baltimore Sun v. Ehrlich, the Fourth Circuit affirmed dismissal of a complaint in a section 1983 case involving First Amendment issues. At base, the press office of Maryland's governor directed the executive department to refrain from speaking with certain reporters because the reporters were not objective enough for the governor. The newspaper and the reporters brought suit under Section 1983 seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions against enforcement of the directive. The Sun alleged that the Governor's directive unconstitutionally retaliated against it for exercising its First Amendment speech and press rights.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the complaint, noting that giving preferential access to some reporters and refusing to give access to or answer the questions of other reporter generally renders the conduct not actionable, and that it would be inconsistent with the journalist's accepted role in the "rough and tumble" political arena to accept that a reporter of ordinary firmness can be chilled by a politician's refusal to comment or answer questions on account of the reporter's previous reporting.

In other words, Judge Niemeyer called the reporters sissies for even bringing this silly complaint.

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