Friday, February 7, 2020


Panel to Discuss Expungement Statutes and the Press

As part of a series of lunchtime discussions of current issues facing journalists and their lawyers, the Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic (MFIA) will host “Expungement and the Press: Should an enforceable right to be forgotten apply to the reporting of past entanglements with law enforcement?” on February 25, 2020.

The panel will address complex issues resulting from the easy access that internet searches provide to past media reporting and government records about arrests where no charges were brought; prosecutions where no guilt was found; and convictions of defendants who have long since paid their debt to society.

With a new public focus on the impact of mass incarceration, some states — including New York — are looking to expand the scope of their expungement statutes as a means of preventing past entanglements with law enforcement from unfairly depriving citizens of opportunities for employment, housing, and social engagement. These statutes would work to prevent public access to those records through government sources for current reporting. But at least some legislatures today seem open to seeking legislative fixes beyond blocking easy access from the government to blocking distribution of past reports online, and courts are being urged to grant injunctive relief or impose penalties on news organizations that continue to disseminate expunged information.

These developments present important questions for news organizations and their lawyers. What should be the posture of the media with respect to expungement legislation? Are there potential “technology fixes” for the privacy concerns that news organizations should embrace? To what extent will privacy concerns limit First Amendment protections for online content?

The luncheon will bring together experts from diverse fields of view to explore these questions in a no-holds-barred, off the record discussion designed to advance the search for a path forward for news organizations dealing with these issues. A question and answer session for both journalists and lawyers will follow.

The panel will be moderated by Jacob Goldstein, Associate General Counsel, Dow Jones & Company and includes:

  • Jonathan Donnellan, Vice-President and Co-General Counsel, Hearst Corporation, and lead counsel in Martin v. Hearst, a case alleging defamation based on the continued posting of a news report about a later-expunged arrest.
  • Kate Klonick, Assistant Professor at St. John’s University Law School, Affiliate Fellow at the Information Society at Yale Law School, and a leading expert on social media content moderation and platform governance.
  • Brian Murray, Associate Professor, Seton Hall Law School, and a leading expert on expungement law reform and current legislative developments at the state and federal level.
  • Chris Quinn, Editor at cleveland.com, who oversaw the launch of a “right to be forgotten” adopted voluntarily by that news organization.

The event will take place in New York City on February 25, 2020 and will be available via video conference in New Haven and Washington, D.C. The event is open to the YLS community in Baker Hall, Room 405 from 12–2 p.m.