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Tennessee Supreme Court hears reporter defamation case

October 4, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Supreme Court on Thursday took up the question of whether a reporter can be sued for defamation when reporting fairly and accurately on a public proceeding.

Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk is suing a Nashville investigative reporter over 2016 stories on a lawsuit Funk claims accused him of soliciting a bribe, extortion and blackmail.

At issue is whether reporting accurately on the lawsuit protects Phil Williams, or whether that’s unimportant if Funk’s attorney can show Williams harbored ill will against the official.

In court Thursday, Funk’s attorney, John Enkema, told the justices they should uphold more than 100 years of Tennessee precedent in which courts have considered whether malice was an element of the reporting.

Williams’ attorney, Ron Harris, argued the reporter’s mindset is unimportant.

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