A British tabloid and a conservative journalist did not violate California’s revenge porn law by posting intimate photos of the representative at the time. Katie Hill without her consent, a judge ruled Wednesday and Thursday.
The news gathering and posting of images of Daily Mail and Red State reporter Jennifer Van Laar of a naked hill brushing another woman’s hair and holding a bang are protected by the 1st Amendment, and the Content of the images was in the public interest because of Hill’s position. as elected, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco wrote in rulings dismissing Hill’s cases against the two.
Hill vowed to appeal.
“Today we lost in court because a judge – not a jury – believes that pornographic revenge is free speech. This fight has massive implications for any woman who wants to run for office, so stepping down is not an option, ”Hill tweeted Wednesday.
Van Laar on Thursday called the decision a victory for the 1st Amendment.
“Today’s decision … is a victory for journalists and recognizes the important work we are doing to assess citizens on the actions of their elected officials,” said Van Laar. “I am proud to have the opportunity to defend the 1st Amendment and the right of all journalists to keep people informed.”
An attorney for the Daily Mail declined to comment.
Hill, a 33-year-old Democrat, was elected to Congress to represent northern Los Angeles County in 2018, overturning a traditionally Republican seat. She was considered a rising star of the party, but resigned less than a year later after the Daily Mail and the Conservative Red State website published the photos along with a story accusing Hill of inappropriate behavior with a campaign staff member and a congressional assistant.
(Hill denied the affair with the aide, which allegedly violated House rules, but admitted to having a relationship with campaign staff, which she said was inappropriate because the woman was a subordinate.)
Hill sued the Daily Mail, Red State, Van Laar and her ex-husband Kenneth Heslap, claiming they violated California’s porn revenge law by distributing or posting the intimate photographs.
The media and Van Laar argued that Hill failed to meet legal requirements because they were not the original distributors of the pictures, because Hill’s nipples and genitals were redacted in the pictures. published and due to a “public interest” exemption. They asserted the 1st Amendment right to publish newsworthy information about the behavior of an elected official.
Red State’s motion to dismiss the case is expected to be heard this month. Hill’s ex-husband has not filed any documents and has no lawyer on file.
Van Laar’s lawyer Krista Lee Baughman said the judge’s ruling was groundbreaking.
“Speeches related to the character and qualifications of our elected officers enjoy the highest protection under the 1st Amendment, which is why the new California law provides liability exceptions for speeches related to matters of public interest.” , said Baughman. “As the court suggested during oral argument, if the speech in this case does not involve a matter of public interest that is protected by the 1st Amendment, nothing would.”
Hill’s lawyer Carrie Goldberg has warned that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent for victims of pornographic revenge.
“This is only phase 1 of the fight. There is much more in store. The Daily Mail may have won the motion, but it will go down in history as a publication of the disease that terrorizes women, ”she tweeted on Wednesday. “And it’s going to reverse.”