Amicus brief: Limited-purpose public figure in defamation
ASNE has recently joined three amicus briefs filed in key court cases around the country. A little overview by the numbers: all 3 were drafted by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, two are defamation cases, and one seeks access to court records; two cases emanate from California, and one is from the District of Columbia. Today we're introducing the first amicus brief:
Montgomery v. Risen involves a defamation lawsuit filed against New York Times reporter James Risen based on statements made about government contractor Dennis Montgomery in Risen's book "Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War." Specifically, the statements say that Montgomery is "someone who has been accused of being a con artist" and that Montgomery's technology is "one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history."
Montgomery filed a suit against Risen and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. That court ruled in favor of Risen; Montgomery has now appealed. The key issue is whether Montgomery should be classified as a "limited-purpose public figure" for purposes of this lawsuit, thereby requiring him to demonstrate that Risen acted with actual malice. Our brief explains the history of the limited-purpose public figure doctrine in the United States and the reasons Montgomery is a limited-purpose public figure in this case, which is important because "faithful application of the public figure doctrine is especially important where an individual has taken on vital responsibilities over government activities involving national security."