Federal appeals court boosts blogger First Amendment rights

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled for a blogger in a defamation case, stating that First Amendment protected bloggers as well as reporters for traditional news outlets. The blogger, Crystal Cox, had accused a firm dispensing financial advice of fraud, corruption and bribery. (The Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2014, by Maura Dolan)

Eugene Volokh, who represented Cox, hailed the decision for reaffirming that First Amendment protections extend to “all who speak to the public.” (The Volokh Conspiracy, January 17, 2014, by Eugene Volokh)

Cox lost in federal district court in Oregon when the court held that “Cox was not entitled to Gertz‘s protection because she was (a) not a journalist and (b) writing only about matters of private concern.”  While applauding the court’s reversal of the lower court, Jeff Hermes objected to one aspect of the Ninth Circuit’s findings,  “The decision also relies on the fact that Cox’s blog was ‘a non-professional website’ in finding that statements thereon were likely to be statements of opinion. Id. But a statement that is one-sided or even unreliable is not the equivalent of one that is incapable of being proven true or false, and a lack of professionalism is not an indication of an inability to convey facts.” (Digital Media Law Project, January 17, 2014, by Jeff Hermes)