Jul 17, 2019

Words and Deeds

My new column for the South Carolina Press Association:

In 2017, when signing a law to strengthen the state’s Freedom of Information Act, Governor McMaster said that “[g]overnment has to be accountable to the people it serves, and its citizens should have unimpeded access to public information that speaks to whether or not their best interests are being served.” And earlier this year, when releasing an audit of state agencies’ compliance with the law—the results were mixed—and issuing an executive order for agencies to better meet FOIA requirements, McMaster said, “We want South Carolina to lead the country in having the most open records laws and most informed public.”

But developments within the past two weeks regarding the selection of a new president for the University of South Carolina have not been a model of transparency.

Jun 19, 2019

Can anti-trust law save newspapers?

My June column for the South Carolina Press Association:

Federal and state anti-trust laws date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, way before the emergence of the modern internet-fueled economy. But increasingly these old laws and concepts are being seen as the means of limiting the influence of the dominant internet platforms, and perhaps of helping the print media, particularly newspapers, remain viable.

May 17, 2019

A newsrack, a judge, and the First Amendment

Last week, during jury selection for trial of Timothy Jones, who is accused of killing his five children in Lexington County and dumping their bodies in Alabama in 2014, presiding judge Eugene Griffith Jr. ordered the removal of a Lexington County Chronicle dispensing machine in front of the courthouse. The judge’s order raises the question of how far courts may go to ensure that a criminal defendant gets a fair trial.

Apr 29, 2019

Finally, an Online Compilation of Jury Instructions

When I undertook my compilation of jury instructions regarding juror use of the internet and social media, the biggest challenge was collecting the official and unofficial jury instructions for every state and federal circuit.

Mar 20, 2019

Does South Carolina’s FOIA end at the border?

Common Pleas Judge Robert E. Hood’s ruling that the House Republican Caucus is not subject to South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act is a disturbing result. The caucus uses government resources without charge, and much of the state legislature’s policies are formulated in the caucus meetings. It is especially troubling because of the corruption that has been found in the legislature in recent years, since such impropriety can flourish in secrecy.
But beyond the issue of public and media access to the caucus, Judge Hood also made another, more disquieting ruling: that while South Carolina’s Freedom of Information law allows anyone to request access to state and local government records, only “citizens” of the state can sue to enforce the statute when access to records is denied.  And “citizens,” he ruled, means only people who live in South Carolina, not corporations that do business here.

Feb 24, 2019

I'm quoted in the Greenville News

... "It's a difficult issue, especially for small municipalities, because they cost a lot of money," said Eric Robinson, an assistant professor for media law at the University of South Carolina. "But essentially that's the price we pay for free speech."

Feb 20, 2019

Is New York Times v. Sullivan in danger?

The basis of modern American media law is the 1964 ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, in which a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment required that limitations be placed on defamation law. But the Sullivan decision has been the subject of criticism in some circles ever since it was decided, the latest being a concurring opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas.