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Martin v. Hearst Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

January 28, 2015

LORRAINE MARTIN, Individually and on Behalf of all Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
HEARST CORPORATION, SOUTHERN CONNECTICUT NEWSPAPERS, INC., dba DAILY GREENWICH, NEWS 12 INTERACTIVE, INC., Defendants-Appellees, MAIN STREET CONNECT, LLC, Defendant

Argued August 18, 2014

Page 547

Appeal from an August 16, 2013 judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Shea, J.). Plaintiff-Appellant Lorraine Martin brought an action alleging libel and other publication-related claims against media outlets that published accounts of her 2010 arrest. She alleged that although the accounts were factually true when published, they became false and defamatory when the charges against her were nolled because, under Connecticut's Criminal Records Erasure Statute, when charges against an individual are nolled or dismissed, that individual's criminal records are erased and he is " deemed to have never been arrested." The district court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment and dismissed each of Martin's claims. We AFFIRM.

RYAN O'NEILL (Mark Sherman, on the brief), The Law Offices of Mark Sherman, LLC, Stamford, CT, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

JONATHAN R. DONNELLAN (Courtenay O'Connor, on the brief), Hearst Corporation, New York, NY, for Defendant-Appellee Hearst Corporation.

DAVID A. SCHULZ (Cameron Stracher, on the brief), Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, New York, NY, for Defendant-Appellee News 12 Interactive.

Eugene Volokh, UCLA School of Law First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, Los Angeles, CA, for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Before: WALKER, JACOBS, and WESLEY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 548

Wesley, Circuit Judge

Plaintiff-Appellant Lorraine Martin was arrested in 2010. Local media outlets published stories accurately reporting the arrest and that Martin was charged with various drug-related offenses. Although she concedes that the articles were factually true at the time they were published, Martin sued the publishers for libel and related claims on the theory that it became false and defamatory to report her arrest once the charges against her were nolled[1] and the records of her arrest and prosecution erased pursuant to Connecticut's Criminal Records Erasure Statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-142a (the " Erasure Statute" ). The Erasure Statute requires that criminal records related to an arrest be destroyed if the individual is subsequently found not guilty or pardoned or if the charges are nolled or dismissed. The statute further provides that " [a]ny person who shall have been the subject of such an erasure shall be deemed to have never been arrested within the meaning of the general statutes with respect to the proceedings so erased and may so swear under oath." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-142a(e)(3). This appeal requires us to determine whether, because the charges against her were nolled and she is now " deemed to have never been arrested," Martin is entitled to assert various publication-related claims against the publishers of contemporaneous news accounts of her arrest on the ground that those accounts are now false or misleading.

We conclude that the Erasure Statute does not render tortious historically accurate news accounts of an arrest and therefore affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Defendants.

BACKGROUND

Martin and her two sons were arrested on August 20, 2010, after police, who suspected a drug ring was operating out of her house, searched her home and found marijuana, scales, plastic bags, and drug paraphernalia. Martin and her sons were charged with various ...


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