Hastings Law Journal


The law of defamation seeks to strike an appropriate balance between the right of the plaintiff to be free from the harm of defamatory falsehoods and the first amendment interest in the free flow of information. This Comment explains how California, through statutes and the common law, has developed a system for dealing with these competing interests separately from United States Supreme Court decisions that have addressed these issues from a constitutional perspective. One difference resulting from the operation of these two distinct systems is the recognition of the public interest privilege in California, a privilege that has been treated with disfavor in the United States Supreme Court. This privilege, recently resurrected by the California Court of Appeal in Rollenhagen v. City of Orange, protects media defendants who make a statement concerning a private plaintiff that the court deems to concern a matter of public interest. Because of the vagueness of the standard and the potential for abusive application of the privilege by the courts, this Comment recommends that the privilege be dispensed with in favor of a general negligence standard when a private plaintiff sues a media defendant for defamation.

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