Salzano v. North Jersey Media Group

The ACLU-NJ, along with the New Jersey Press Association, submitted an amicus brief challenging an Appellate Division decision holding that the "fair reporters privilege" (which shields reporters from libel suits when they simply report information that is filed with the courts) does not extend to a first complaint in cases. On March 2, 2006, The Record newspaper published a report with the headline, "Man accused of stealing $500,000 for high living," and the subhead, "NorVergence funds were taken." The story was based on court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Ne Jersey. On February 20, 2007, Thomas John Salzano, the son of the former chief managing officer of NorVergence, filed a defamation suit against North Jersey Media Group, the Passaic County based company which publishes The Record. A trial court dismissed the complaint, but the Appellate Division held the New Jersey Media Group could be sued for reporting what was filed in bankruptcy court, even if the allegations stated in those filings were false. The ACLU-NJ contended that the fair reporters privilege should apply and that the appellate ruling violated the freedom of the press. On May 11, 2010, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the fair reporters privilege would apply even to initial complaints. The Court split on the issue of whether the reporting in this case was actually fair and accurate, and remanded the case for assessment of whether information in the article that did not come from the complaint amounted to defamation.

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