Government censorship

Rossignol v. Voorhaar (4th Cir. on censorship)

A newspaper publisher brought a 1983 suit for violation of its First Amendment rights, after county sheriff deputies worried about the paper’s Election Day editorials conspired to buy out the paper’s entire stock from vendors across the county. The district court gave summary judgment for the deputies, saying they acted privately and not under color of state law, as a 1983 suit demands. The 4th circuit reversed the summary judgment, though, because: (1) the deputies sought to censor the publisher's criticism of them in their official roles, (2) their official positions were an intimidating asset in the execution of their plan, and (3) this sort of quasi-private conspiracy by public officials was precisely the target of § 1983. Notably, the court found that the deputies' actions bore a sufficiently close nexus with the State to be fairly treated as that of the State itself.

Snyder v. Ringgold (4th Cir. on access to records)

Ringgold, a police official, restricted a reporter's access to police department information, after she aired a story about possible department corruption, by only communicating with her in writing and prohibiting her from any exclusive interviews with department personnel. The reporter brought a §1983 action, claiming that the restrictions violated her 1st 14th Amendment rights. After the reporter's summary judgment motion on liability was granted, Ringgold asserted the defense of qualified immunity in a summary judgment motion, which was denied by the district court. On appeal, the Court reversed the decision, holding that the rights involved were not sufficiently clear to deny Ringgold qualified immunity. Acting reasonably, Ringgold might not have understood that the reporter's rights would be violated by the restrictions placed on her. NOTE: This is an unpublished opinion, meaning it cannot be relied on as precedent.
Subscribe to RSS - Government censorship