On May 20th, Chinese Americans Civil Rights Coalition, a nonprofit organization, filed a defamation lawsuit against former President Trump both in his former official capacity and as a private citizen for his comments about COVID-19. The complaint includes a list of Trump’s allegedly defamatory statements, including tweets and campaign speeches in which Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” “China virus,” “China plague,” and “kung flu.”
On May 5th, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court — the highest court in Massachusetts — ruled that a virtual suppression hearing conducted via Zoom violated neither the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights nor the public’s First Amendment right to access court proceedings. Nevertheless, the court reversed the trial judge’s ruling that had rejected the defendant’s motion for a continuance.
On April 22nd, the First Amendment Coalition (FAC), a nonprofit public interest organization, filed a lawsuit against Ventura County in Southern California. FAC alleges the County violated the California Public Records Act (CPRA) after failing to appropriately respond to two requests for information regarding data on COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths, thus violating the right of access under the First Amendment.
Private prison officials at a halfway house in California seized an incarcerated journalist’s phone and delayed his release after he texted a colleague about a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court on February 2nd.
Since her nomination to then-President-Elect Joe Biden's Cabinet, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has stopped answering journalists' questions about the pandemic and vaccine distribution. According to The Providence Journal, Raimondo’s last weekly COVID-19 briefing was on December 22, 2020.
On November 26th, the United States Supreme Court ordered a preliminary injunction barring the state of New York from enforcing a restriction on religious gatherings after finding that the regulations “single[d] out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.”
On November 6th, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ordered a lower court to halt the state’s restrictions on public gatherings because the Wisconsin Department of Health Services had failed to submit the order to the legislature before making it official, thus rendering the order invalid.
Though politicians and journalists need one another, their interactions are by nature often adversarial. A key part of a reporter’s job is to look beyond the story public officials want to tell and to ask uncomfortable questions. But when officials believe reporters go too far, can they ban them from attending future gatherings? And what First Amendment or other rights protect reporters from such actions?