AZA Argues Newspaper Defamation Case Before Texas Supreme Court September 16, 2016
AUSTIN, Texas – Attorney Jane Langdell Robinson, Of Counsel with Houston’s AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, recently argued before the Texas Supreme Court that media reporting on the private lives of a public employee’s family members are not entitled to enhanced protection under the First Amendment when the reporting is not on a matter of public concern.
Ms. Robinson represents Wade Brady, who sued the Fort Bend Star and writer LeaAnne Klentzman for defamation over a 2003 front-page article focused on both Mr. Brady and his father, a former chief deputy sheriff. The article highlighted a prior traffic stop involving Mr. Brady in which his father was not involved, which AZA argued was not a matter of a public concern.
AZA helped Mr. Brady win a $1.1 million verdict against the Fort Bend Star and Ms. Klentzman in 2011 after a jury found the article generally, as well as many specific statements in it, were false and defamatory to Mr. Brady. The verdict was appealed to Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals, which ordered the case to be sent back for a retrial. Both parties appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision to the Texas Supreme Court, which is being asked to determine if the newspaper and Ms. Klentzman should receive enhanced protection under the First Amendment for reporting on matters of public concern. The high court also is being asked to define what separates a public concern from a private concern.
“The publication of false, hurtful statements about a teenager, the son of a county employee, does nothing to further the public debate about matters of public concern,” Ms. Robinson told the court, according to coverage by national legal news wire Law 360 in “Texas High Court Told Teen’s Arrest Not ‘Public Concern’” (subscription required). “In fact, false statements harm the public debate, because not only do they hurt the subject of the statements, but they mislead the readers of the statements.”
In the brief to the court Ms. Robinson wrote: “Without doubt, the worst way to hurt a parent is to harm his or her child. This Court should not encourage, reward, or condone such behavior.”
The case is Wade Brady v. LeaAnne Klentzman and Carter Publications, No. 15-0056.
AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized in Chambers USA 2016 among the best in Texas commercial law; U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms in 2016; and Law360 as one of only 13 Texas Powerhouse law firms. National corporate counsel named AZA one of the country’s best in client service among law firms serving the Fortune 1000. Read more at https://azalaw.com.