Blogger Shellee Hale Not Protected Under New Jersey Shield Law and Must Reveal Her Sources.
Lyndhurst, NJ, June 12, 2012 – The New Jersey Superior Court has ruled against blogger Shellee Hale's shield law defense, putting an end to a three-year dispute and allowing a defamation lawsuit brought against her by Scarinci Hollenbeck client Too Much Media to continue.
The case concerns allegedly defamatory remarks that Washington blogger Shellee Hale made on message boards in 2009 against a New Jersey company Too Much Media (“TMM”). Hale claimed to have inside information about purported fraud that TMM and its owners had committed upon consumers.
TMM sued Hale for defamation. She argued that she was a journalist and therefore protected under the New Jersey Shield Law, which allows reporters to protect the identity of their sources. The trial court disagreed and ruled that posting on message boards did not make her a journalist, and that she therefore was not protected under the Shield Law. Hale appealed the trial court ruling, but the appellate court affirmed the lower court's ruling.
The case then went to the New Jersey Superior Court, where the justices again rejected Hale’s claims. The case was returned to the trial court, where Hale next tried to argue she was writing a nonfiction book, and under new shield law standards, should be classified as a journalist.
Superior Court Judge Linda Grasso Jones dismissed her claims, noting that Hale had not previously mentioned writing a nonfiction work in her previous hearings, and had, in fact, testified in 2009 that she was completing a work of fiction.
Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney and partner Joel Kreizman, who represents Too Much Media, said the ruling puts an end to years of Hale’s efforts to avoid testifying concerning the basis of her statements about TMM and it owners.
"I am pleased with the court's ruling. The New Jersey Shield Law is designed to protect credible journalists from revealing legitimate sources," Kreizman said. "Ms. Hale's manipulation of the law, and her attempts to thwart the court’s discovery process, is finally at an end.
Unless an appellate court entertains another appeal by Hale, she will now be required to appear for a deposition in the Too Much Media defamation lawsuit.
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