Media and First Amendment

Our lawyers represent media companies – newspapers, television stations, radio stations, magazines and book publishers, as well as publishers of online content and hosts of social media sites – in the full scope of legal issues relating to their businesses. The firm’s media and First Amendment practice leader is recognized in Best Lawyers in America and in Chambers USA for his First Amendment and media law experience. Our media lawyers have authored and contributed to leading publications on defamation and media-related issues, including the North Carolina and 4th Circuit chapters of the Media Law Resource Center’s 50-State Annual Survey of Media Libel Law and The North Carolina Media Law Handbook. Essex Richards is a member of the Media Law Resource Center’s Defense Counsel Section.

Our lawyers have represented a range of media clients, including McClatchy Newspapers Inc., The Charlotte Observer, The Fayetteville Observer, Raycom Media Inc., WBTV, Inc., ITV Studios, Inc., Greater Media, Inc., Gatehouse Media, Inc., and the Charlotte Business Journal. We have also represented other national publishers and broadcasters on specific litigation and business-related matters. We counsel our media clients and represent them in court on the full range of issues they face, including:

  • Pre-publication and pre-broadcast review
  • Defamation and privacy claims
  • Access to state and federal courts and court records
  • Resisting subpoenas and search warrants
  • Prior restraints against publication and gag orders on trial participants
  • Access to public records under state statutes and the federal Freedom of Information Act
  • Right of publicity / misappropriation of likeness
  • Print, broadcast and Internet-related advertising issues
  • Trademark and copyright infringement matters
  • Internet legal issues, including claims involving the Communications Decency Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

We work closely with our regular clients through in-house seminars and pre-publication / pre-broadcast review sessions to help them minimize litigation risks and keep current on legal developments that affect them. We strive to be counselors to our clients at all times, and creative, effective courtroom advocates when necessary. In recent years, we’ve helped clients assemble coalitions of media entities in matters involving access to court records and proceedings, as well as to government records under state and federal freedom of information laws. For example, in 2015 we represented, along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The New York Times, NPR, the Associated Press and other national and local media organizations in successfully seeking the unsealing of the sentencing memoranda and letters of support related to the sentencing of former CIA Director David Petraeus, and represented The Charlotte Observer in its successful motion to unseal the sentencing memoranda and letters of support related to the sentencing of former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon. We also represented The Charlotte Observer, WBTV television and Time Warner Cable News in obtaining access to juror questionnaires and transcripts of depositions in the criminal and civil cases involving former Charlotte police officer Randall Kerrick and in successfully opposing motions to gag trial participants in the Kerrick criminal case.