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Mette, Evans & Woodside Represents Newspaper Publisher in Freedom of Speech and First Amendment Lawsuit

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The law firm of Mette, Evans & Woodside has settled a lawsuit filed on behalf of its client, Press and Journal, Inc., publisher of the Middletown Press & Journal, against the Borough of Middletown, Pennsylvania.

The suit alleged that the Borough violated the newspaper’s rights of free speech and press guaranteed by the First Amendment. The suit arose in 2018 when the Borough refused to place advertisements for publication with the paper because the Borough disagreed with the paper’s reporting and editorials. The Borough stated that it might resume a commercial relationship if the newspaper’s reporting changed.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner entered a consent decree on March 25, 2019 requiring the Borough to follow published neutral criteria. The Borough also agreed to pay the paper’s legal fees for the matter.

Under the terms of the settlement, the borough now is required to spell out its criteria for placement of advertising on bases that are “content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral consistent with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Mette, Evans & Woodside attorneys Aaron D. Martin, Michael D. Reed and Veronica L. Boyer represented Press & Journal in the suit.

The Press & Journal Receives Statewide Journalism Award for Editorial About Lawsuit

Mette, Evans & Woodside client, The Press & Journal, won a statewide journalism award for an editorial they published on March 26, 2019 “We are not the enemy; borough, Press & Journal agree to settle lawsuit over advertisements.” The editorial won first place in the 2019 Media Awards in the Editorial/Commentary category. The competition is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Bar.

The editorial outlined the resolution of a lawsuit the Press & Journal filed against the borough of Middletown, when the council decided to withdraw all advertising dollars from the newspaper, because of articles and editorials they deemed “detrimental to the efforts and initiatives of the borough.”

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