California court rules blogger has same First Amendment protections as traditional media

Here’s the summary of the decision, published earlier today:

The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district
court’s judgment awarding compensatory damages to a
bankruptcy trustee on a defamation claim against an Internet

The panel held that Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 350 (1974) (holding that the First Amendment required only a “negligence standard for private defamation actions”), is not limited to cases with institutional media defendants.
The panel further held that the blog post at issue addressed a matter of public concern, and the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find the blogger liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently. The panel held that the bankruptcy trustee did not become a “public official” simply by virtue of court appointment, or by receiving compensation from the court. The panel remanded for a new trial on the blog post at issue, and affirmed the district court’s summary judgment on the other blog posts
that were deemed constitutionally protected opinions.

You can read the whole thing ruling (appropriately enough) or the backstory on the case of the Obsidian Finance Group and defendant Crystal Cox, whom Benjamin Souede and Eugene Volokh represented.

The ruling provides support for the view that the First Amendment applies more broadly to protect speech by all American citizens and acts of journalism, as opposed to solely protecting publications by institutional, credentialed media.