SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – The Santa Barbara News-Press did not prove it had a viable libel claim against an independent journalist who wrote about turmoil in its newsroom, a California appeals court ruled.
The paper had sued Susan Paterno for libel and disparagement for her “Santa Barbara Smackdown” article in the American Journalism Review magazine.
The article included allegations that the paper killed a story about the DUI conviction of one of its editors; and took out a restraining order against an ex-employee, Paterno.
Judge Richard Aronson ruled that the trial court should not have granted the paper’s motion to subpoena the background material Paterno used to write her story.
“Absent the prerequisite of provable false facts,” Aronson wrote, “no good cause supported the discovery order, which we countermand.”