Media and First Amendment Law

Clients in Louisiana and throughout the Third Coast rely on Phelps Dunbar to handle matters that result from today’s rapidly changing media environment.

Phelps Dunbar has represented new media organizations, entertainment companies, advertising agencies and others on First Amendment issues for decades. Our news media clients include television stations, television networks, newspapers, magazines, online companies and book publishers. We litigate defamation actions, invasion of privacy and other news gathering torts, the right of publicity or misappropriation of likeness claims, negligent publication claims and other publication causes of action, such as infliction of emotional distress, interference with contractual relations, and breach of contract. We routinely assert the reporter’s privilege when objecting to or moving to quash subpoenas served upon media clients, and handle litigation involving media access issues, such as open meetings, public records, closed courtrooms, gag orders, prior restraints and sealed court records. Our lawyers also regularly advise media clients regarding pre-publication and pre-broadcast review.

Recent successes include:

  • overturning a prior restraint against an online business news publication for reporting alleged trade secret information from a private company’s financial documents; 
  • stopping a state court injunction against a television network and production company planning to broadcast a reality TV show that allegedly defamed a restaurant owner;
  • winning a federal appellate decision interpreting Louisiana law to hold that the broadcast of sex acts by a priest was “newsworthy” and hence not an actionable invasion of privacy; and
  • achieving a federal district court decision unsealing a court record that had been sealed for several years.

We are active in the Media Law Resource Center’s (MLRC) Defense Counsel Section and the American Bar Association’s Communications Law Committee. The firm authors the Louisiana outlines for the MLRC 50-State Survey of Employment Libel and Privacy Law, the MLRC 50-State Survey of Media Privacy and Related Law, and Tapping Officials Secrets, an open meetings and public records handbook published by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.