RESPOND TO EACH QUESTION WITH AT LEAST 100 WORDS
Issue: Jones, City Attorney for the Town of Smithville, filed a lawsuit against a columnist and the newspaper for making defamatory statements. The writer described Jones as being the power being the scenes that was potentially orchestrating the town’s demise.
Rule: To receive a judgement in favor of Jones, he would have to prove that the writer’s statements were both false and defamatory. Defamation is a complicated case to prove; however, cases involving libel (written or printed defamation) are easier to prove than slander, which is less permanent and typically communicated verbally (Langvardt, et al., 2019).
Application: There are a couple of ways the defendants can defend themselves. As previously mentioned, part of winning a defamation case is proving that the statements are false. Part of the defensive approach should be to provide evidence to support the writer’s assertions in the column. If the defendants can provide evidence that the attorney participate in “hatchet-like” activities or have a significant amount of influence over city activities, they can prove the statements were not made with reckless disregard for the truth. The defendants should also consider whether the writer’s statements were fair comments, derived from information gained during public and/or government meetings. Lastly, because the article was an opinion piece, the defendants should use their position as a part of the media to defend their first-amendment rights (Langvardt, et al., 2019).
Conclusion: Considering how difficult it would be for the Plaintiff to prove knowledge of falsity and a reckless disregard for the truth, coupled with the protection provided to members of the media, it is unlikely that the Plaintiff will be awarded damages. It is unlikely that the Plaintiff will be able to prove actual malice, which means that the defendant entertained serious doubts about the validity of the writer’s comments and even more unlikely that the defendants consciously rejected overwhelming evidence of falsity (Langvardt, et al., 2019).
Issue: Jones, City Attorney for the town of Smithsville, filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper, the Town Crier, because the writer referred to Jones as “the political hatchet man” and “one of the biggest powers behind the throne in local government.” The writer asserted that Jones is leading the town to “destruction.”
Rule: There are two forms of defamation: libel and slander (Langvardt, et al., 2019). Libel is a written or printed form of defamation which could cause assumed damages such as emotional distress, and slander is an accusation or statement, often verbal and considered less damaging depending on the severity. There are four elements of defamation: 1) unprivileged, 2) publication of 3) false and defamatory and 4) statements concerning another (Langvardt, et al., 2019).
Application: Defamation involves “publication, without any justification, of a derogatory and/or false statement regarding another individual or party,” (Ronquillo, 2020). The plantiff would need to prove that the comments caused damages to reputation and livelihood and therefore requires compensation. In The New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), the Supreme Court held that a public figure must show the false, defaming statements were said with actual malice (Defamation Legal Information Institute, 2021). Jones is considered a public figure since he holds public office, and needs to provide evidence that there was malice. Considering the statements made, that Jones is “the political hatchet man” and “one of the biggest powers behind the throne in local government,” while these are strongly worded they are also of an opinion and not fact.
Conclusion: Jones will likely not win this case because the comments in the newspaper were opinion and there is little evidence to prove that they were malicious, which is how the newspaper would construct their defense. Had the writer specified how Jones was “leading the town to destruction” say, misappropriation of funds, abuse of power, then the plaintiff would have a case.
Issue: Terrance Hall, chairman of Bet-Air, Inc., was convicted of selling restricted military equipment parts to Iran. This was based on evidence, a shredded copy of meeting minutes that were obtained from a dumpster on Bet-Air property. Hall alleged that this evidence was obtained by U.S. Customs Agent William T. Parks by unlawful manners. He contended that Parks had to use a private road to reach the dumpster on Bet-Air’s private property (United States v. Hall, 1995).
Rule: The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable governmental violations of rights. Hall petitioned that the search that resulted in the shredded meeting minutes was unreasonable and violated his rights. The court must determine if the search was unreasonable, causing the evidence to be suppressed (Langvardt, Barnes, Prenkert, McCrory, Perry, 2019).
Analysis: Hall has protection under the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches or seizures on his private property. This is true given proper signage to alert someone where the private property begins and its borders. Agent Parks was able to travel down a road that was unmarked with good private property signage. Then he was able to gain easy access to a dumpster that was also unmarked and appeared to be on public property (Langvardt, Barnes, Prenkert, McCrory, Perry, 2019).
Conclusion: The court determined based on the lack of proper signage, the search that resulted in the missing meeting notes was reasonable and would not be suppressed. If there had been proper signage to ensure that Agent Parks knew he was on private property when he was traveling down the private road and again when he was at the dumpster. This would have caused the search to be unreasonable since Hall has a reasonable right of protection against unreasonable searches. As an executive, proper signage needs to be installed to ensure everyone who enters the property is made aware they are not on private property.
The issue, in this case, is pretraining to whether Terrence Hall, the defendant and the chairman of Bet-Air Inc. engaged in selling restricted military parts to Iran. Hall was convicted of the crime after a special agent of the US Customs Service found some shredded materials in a dumpster located near the Bet-Air property. (U.S. V. Hall, 1995) Shortly after the shredded documents were used as the basis for a search warrant which resulted in the seizure of additional documents and records which assisted in Hall’s conviction. Hall appealed the Court’s decision on the grounds of error regarding suppression of documents and search warrant based on improperly seized documents. (U.S. V. Hall, 1995) Additionally, Terrence argued that the prosecutors closing remarks were biased and subsequently the district court did not properly apply the sentencing guidelines to a pre-guidelines case. The court of appeals found no evidence to support any of Hall’s accusations and arguments. (U.S. V. Hall, 1995)
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and warrants and applies to both businesses and private properties. Considering California v. Greenwood, it can be concluded that the search and seizure did not violate the Fourth Amendment. In the case of Greenwood, the Supreme Court found that the seizure of garbage left in a plastic bag on the outside of a private house was not a violation if the people discharging the garbage did not create an expectation of privacy that society views as reasonable. (California v. Greenwood, 1988) Similarly, in the case of Hall, Terrence pointed out the fact that seized documents were shredded, and that acts as an expectation of privacy. For the actions of the agent to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment, the objects or documents must not be left in plain sight. Additionally, since we are discussing a matter involving a commercial building, it is the responsibility of the occupants to take additional precautions and keep the public away from the area. (U.S. V. Hall, 1995) The Supreme Court held that the government needs to obtain a search warrant only when searching areas of commercial property and that the public has been excluded from. (Langvardt, Barnes, Prenkert, McCrory, Perry, 2019 In the case of Hall, although the government agent needed to walk to the dumpster, the area was not in any way labeled as private thus he did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment is described to protect persons rather than places. The Supreme Court denied Fourth Amendment protection for places that show no reasonable expectation of privacy such as open fields, bank records, etc. (Langvardt, Barnes, Prenkert, McCrory, Perry, 2019) Additionally, the Fourth Amendment applies when the privacy of the homeowner himself is invaded. (Langvardt, Barnes, Prenkert, McCrory, Perry, 2019) If the dumpster was on private property, away from the public, and inside a home or very close by the results would have differed. The most important aspect to consider here is whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy here and whether something was left in plain sight and was easily accessible by the public. (When the Fourth Amendment applies,2019) Hall relied on the argument of a third party handling the garbage which further proved the expectation of privacy. However, in this case, such third-party handlings further spoke to the easy access of the documents.
Based on the facts stated above, it can be concluded that no reasonable expectation of privacy was present in the case of the United States v. Hall. Although the dumpster was reached by the government agent by walking some distance, it was not properly labeled as private and thus the actions of the agent were not considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment. If I were an executive for Bet-Air my recommendation would be to create a clearly labeled area that specified, the dumpster was in fact private property. The focus needs to be on the creation of a fenced area or something similar that clearly spoke to the intent of privacy. Additionally, a relocation of the dumpster to a closer area or even somewhere inside of the building would be an appropriate step to establish privacy.
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