Ruling Reflects Reed Elsevier Inc.'s Support For Freedom Of The Press

Ruling Reflects Reed Elsevier Inc.'s Support For Freedom Of The Press

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, reversing the lower court rulings, ruled in favor of a Boston newspaper, The Enterprise, in a libel suit by a former official of Abington. The official, James Howell, served as the superintendent of the sewer department in Abington. On May 9, 2005, he was placed on administrative leave and was eventually fired from his position concerning the discovery of inappropriate images on computers owned by the sewer department.
 
The Enterprise surfaced numerous stories about the events surrounding Howell’s termination, and Howell filed a complaint against the newspaper alleging the newspaper defamed him and violated privacy rights.  Reed Elsevier Inc. filed an amicus curie brief, arguing the New York Times v. Sullivan Constitutional actual malice standard should apply. While the Massachusetts SJC's decision is based on state law, the brief did garner the court’s attention as it was footnoted in the case.  The court’s ruling signals its commitment to the Rule of Law and paves the way for the press to continue reporting events concerning government officials that occur behind closed doors.