NEFAC to N.H. Supreme Court: First Amendment Protects Right to Criticize Others on Matters of Public Concern

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |


The New England First Amendment Coalition and other advocates filed an amicus brief before the New Hampshire Supreme Court today arguing in support of the First Amendment right to criticize individuals on matters of public concern.

The plaintiff in Richards v. Azzi and Union Leader Corp. is attempting to use state defamation law to punish critical comments made about him in a newspaper op/ed.

Allowing the plaintiff to do so, explained NEFAC and fellow amici in the Oct. 19 brief, “would not only chill robust debate on matters of public concern, but also would potentially cause media outlets, out of a fear of vexatious litigation, to self-censor the vital fora that they create for members of the public to debate important issues of the day.”

NEFAC is joined in the amicus brief by the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, which drafted the brief on behalf of the organizations.

The op/ed in question stated that the plaintiff and others are “[d]esperate to stay bonded to America’s original sins of slavery and genocide of indigenous peoples,” and have “disseminated, across multiple media platforms, white supremacist ideology to keep Americans from learning an unexpunged American history from its 1619 origins along-side the dominant White 1776 narrative.”

In their brief, amici argued that these two statements are not actionable under the First Amendment and the New Hampshire Constitution. It is well established that an accusation of bigotry is a protected expression of opinion, they explained.

NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly drafts and joins amicus briefs in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, Connecticut Public and GBH-Boston.