In an emotionally charged case involving child sexual abuse allegations and claims of wrongful termination, emerged an unlikely decision with the potential to curtail lawyers’ First Amendment rights in Ohio. The Cleveland-based trial court found that the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Peter Pattakos, violated Ohio’s frivolous conduct statute – R.C. §2323.51 – by communicating publically available information about the case to the media prior to trial. Recognizing the likely implications of the trial court’s decision on free speech rights, and lack of supporting law, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision and confirmed that an award of sanctions is not appropriate where a lawyer communicates with the media about a pending case. Cruz, et al. v. English Nanny & Governess Sch., Inc., et al., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 103714, 2017-Ohio-4176 (June 8, 2017).
For more on this case, see my article in the July 2017 edition of the MLRC MediaLaw Letter.