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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules in Favor of Boston Herald in Landmark Defamation Decision

The Boston Herald and two of its reporters, represented by Jeffrey S. Robbins, a Member of the Litigation Section of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C., won a landmark decision today by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  The Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the newspaper and the two journalists in a defamation case that will have far-reaching First Amendment implications for media outlets throughout Massachusetts and across the country.

The case involved a claim by Donald Thomas Scholz, the founder of the rock band “Boston,” that the newspaper had defamed him in articles it had published about the suicide death of the band’s lead singer, Brad Delp, in 2007.  The newspaper published several articles about Mr. Delp’s death, relying on information from his former wife and other individuals. Mr. Scholz filed an action in 2007 for defamation against the paper claiming that its reporting insinuated that he was responsible for Mr. Delp’s suicide.

The Herald was awarded summary judgment in the case in 2012.  The case went on appeal before the Supreme Judicial Court in November, 2014. 

In its decision today the Court upheld the 2012 summary judgment in favor of the Herald, ruling that the paper had not defamed Mr. Scholz because the statements contained in its articles were “statements of opinion and not verifiable fact, and therefore could not form the basis of a claim of defamation.” 

“This case was a significant First Amendment victory not just for the Herald, but for publishers, editors and reporters across the Commonwealth and beyond,” said Mr. Robbins. “The very fact that nearly two dozen media outlets filed an amicus brief in support of the Herald’s position underscores the importance of this case and today’s decision.”

The court also awarded $132,000 in court costs to the Boston Herald, not including interest.

Mr. Robbins specializes in complex civil litigation, including litigation involving allegations of fraud, First Amendment issues, and claims of defamation.