Federal Appeals Court Opinion Upholds First Amendment Rights of Bloggers

Article excerpt

Except for folks who make their living arguing before federal judges, reading court opinions isn't likely among the regular practices of Morning Examiner readers.

But a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling last week that should be read closely by everybody who cares about preserving independent reporting on government.

The decision affirms that individual bloggers are subject to the same standards as members of the mainstream media in reporting on matters of public concern.

It's a First Amendment thing

Here's the key passage in the opinion written by Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz:

"The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others' writings, or tried to get both sides of a story.

"As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable."

In other words, an independent blogger not affiliated with The New York Times or CBS News or any other mainstream media organization has the same legal rights and obligations as the trained professionals working for corporate entities.

Victory for Volokh

It should be noted that Eugene Volokh, the brain behind The Volokh Conspiracy blog, was a counsel for the defendant in the case, blogger Crystal Cox.

The opinion in Obsidian Finance Group v Cox can be read here.

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