Laura Prather in the Texas Press Association Legislative Report

06/04/2015

The newspaper industry steamed successfully through the stormy seas of the 84th Texas Legislature, passing crucial First Amendment legislation and protecting public notices, public records and open meetings... Below is a summary of key legislation...

  

HB 1766 by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi/SB 627 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston —Gov. Abbott signed this crucial bill into law on May 28, providing libel protection for journalists who accurately quote third-party sources who make allegations of wrongdoing.

TPA witnesses pointed out that journalists often reveal alleged wrongdoing before governmental authorities are even aware that a problem exists. Because of the importance of the media’s watchdog role, for 20 years legal precedent protected Texas journalists who reported on third-party allegations of wrongdoing.

Ruling on a case known as Neely v. Wilson in 2013, the Supreme Court of Texas cast a cloud of doubt on that precedent, spawning concern about reporters’ vulnerability to libel judgments. SB 627/HB 1766 was filed to codify the protection established through precedent for the past two decades.

The Texas Trial Lawyers Association Trial initially opposed the bill, maintaining that it would give free reign to reporters to write virtually anything they wanted. Hunter called both sides to the conference table to hammer out a compromise, and TPA counsel Laura Lee Prather of Haynes and Boone spearheaded negotiations for media interests. The resulting compromise bill passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and became law immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Excerpted from the Texas Press Association Newsletter. To read the full article, click here.

Email Disclaimer