COMMONWEALTH V. LUCAS | SJC-11830 | Mass SJC April 21, 2015
The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus brief (PDF) in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts on behalf of the New England First Amendment Coalition, Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC (owners of the Boston Globe), Hearst Television, Inc. (owners of WCVB-TV Channel 5 in Boston), the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, Inc., and the New England Society of Newspaper Editors in Commonwealth v. Lucas, SJC-11830. The case was brought under the Massachusetts false campaign speech law, M.G.L. ch. 56 § 42 (“Section 42”). The brief argues that Section 42 is an unconstitutional restriction on the content of speech, and is also unconstitutionally vague. It describes the robust protection for speech in the realm of political debate, and notes several cases in other jurisdictions where courts struck false campaign speech statutes. As the brief notes, Section 42 presents more serious concerns than the statutes in those cases, as it can potentially extend to any person who makes or publishes a false statement that aids or injures a candidate, whether or not they knew the statement was false, or whether the statement would be understood as false by the reader or viewer.