The twelve members of a Minneapolis jury this month declared that a person should not be allowed to publish something–true or otherwise–that might cost someone else his job. The Minnesota Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists strongly disagrees with this decision and has filed a legal brief in support of blogger John Hoff as he prepares to fight it.
Hoff publishes online as Johnny Northside. He wrote a statement that even the jury admits is true about a one-time neighborhood official, Jerry Moore. Because Moore was fired from his job after Hoff’s comment post, the jury ruled Hoff interfered with the contract between Moore and his employer, the University of Minnesota. Hoff is ordered to pay $60,000 in damages.
Minnesota SPJ maintains the legal action against Hoff is another attempt to do an end run around the First Amendment. There is a long and specific history of legal precedence putting strict limits on people’s ability to infringe on free speech – specifically truth being an adequate defense for libel and defamation claims. Moore’s attorney wrapped this particular First Amendment assault in the Trojan Horse of an employment complaint.
SPJ is indebted to SPJ FOI chairs John Borger and Leita Walker from the law firm of Faegre and Benson for their expertise and leadership in preparing and following through with the friend-of-the-court brief to help assure the First Amendment is protected.