ASNE joins amicus in 'expungement' case
The American Society of News Editors joined several media companies in an amicus brief that was filed Monday in a case in the New Jersey Supreme Court. The brief argues, among other things, that publication of an expunged public record doesn't constitute an invasion of privacy.
RESTON, Va. – The American Society of News Editors joined several media companies in an amicus brief that was filed Monday in a case in the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The case arises out of a political controversy during a New Jersey Senate race. Following the campaign, a former part-time aide for one of the candidates sued the opposing candidate and others for distributing fliers containing allegedly false accusations. Some of the accusations were contained in a criminal record that had been expunged before the fliers were distributed. The plaintiff argued, among other things, that the distribution of the expunged information constituted an invasion of his privacy.
The defendants argued that the expungement of these records didn't make their statements any less true or create any invasion of the plaintiff's privacy. The brief that ASNE joined highlights the importance of that issue for reporters with this argument:
- Expunging a criminal record simply means that the underlying crime can't be held against the person in the future, not that the act itself never occurred.
- The expunged file is a public record, the publication of which doesn't constitute an invasion of privacy.
- Individuals with criminal records have no expectation of privacy in expunged records since information about the underlying crime is independent of the record and is likely to exist elsewhere. To rule otherwise might require a digital purge of all archived stories and information when a criminal record is expunged.
The other groups signing the brief along with ASNE were Advance Publications, Inc., The Associated Press, Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, the ACLU of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Press Association.
The full brief is available here.
The American Society of News Editors is a membership organization for leaders of multimedia news organizations and deans and endowed chairs at accredited journalism schools. ASNE focuses on open government and the First Amendment, journalism education, leadership and diversity.