By: Richard Lawless
In a recent lawsuit filed against the Washington Post, two unique strategies are likely to challenge how media companies behave for decades to come.
In the Lawsuit, Commercial Solar Power, Inc vs Wp Company, LLC (Washington Post), filed in the Washington, D.C. Superior Court, the plaintiff claims that the newspaper and its sixty or more senior managers participated in “criminal acts”.
This may be one of the first media lawsuits attempting to hold Journalists and Editors personally responsible for their decisions and actions. The lawsuit is also unique because the plaintiff’s tort claim is for “aiding and abetting” in a number of major felonies.
What makes this lawsuit groundbreaking is the difficult nature of defending against such claims. Newspapers routinely assert their first amendment rights as their first line of defense. The Supreme Court has ruled that “Unlawful Acts” are not protected by first amendment rights, leaving the Washington Post without its primary defense argument in this litigation.
The media also counts on special State statutes, such as the Washington D.C. “Anti-SLAPP” statutes that often allow cases to be dismissed immediately if the claim against the newspaper is related to written articles.
In this case, the claim is based on non-action. The plaintiff alleges that the newspaper “covered-up” these major crimes. The lawsuit is not primarily about written news articles, rendering these special statutes ineffective as a defense tool.
The plaintiff also asserts that if victims do not hold the management team personally responsible, companies like the Washington Post will simply pay the damages and continue to participate in illegal activities.
Currently there are a number of special motions and legal actions taking place in Federal District Court’s as well as the Washington D.C. Appellate Court that will help determine if this lawsuit makes it to trial. Regardless of the outcome, media companies will be left with new legal concerns about their decisions and the actions of their leadership teams.
About the author: Richard Lawless is an investigative Journalist and author who writes extensively about government corruption and financial crimes.
References: Articles by Richard Lawless | Freelance Journalist | Muck Rack, Capitol Hill’s Criminal Underground: The Most Thorough Exploration of Government Corruption Ever Put in Writing: Lawless, Richard: 9780578209982: Amazon.com: Books
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