In early 2021, The Salt Lake Tribune published a story regarding David Robinson, a Utah political operative who had, among other things, served as the communications director for the Salt Lake County GOP. The Tribune’s story contained allegations that Robinson engaged in bullying and harassing behavior, particularly towards female candidates. In early 2022, Robinson sued not just The Tribune and other media entities, and not just his accusers, but dozens of others who had amplified or commented on The Tribune’s reporting, initially including Governor Cox and Lt. Gov. Henderson.
The Tribune turned to members of Parsons' media and first amendment practice team—including Michael O’Brien, Michael Judd, and Elena Vetter—to defend the lawsuit. The Tribune moved to dismiss, invoking (among other defenses) the neutral-reporting privilege, which protects the public interest in being fully informed about public controversies by shielding the press when it reports on accusations in an accurate and disinterested way. Judge Barry Lawrence heard three hours of oral argument from Michael Judd on that Motion to Dismiss several weeks ago. This morning, June 2, Judge Lawrence issued a decision dismissing the claims against The Tribune and ABC4 with prejudice, emphasizing the importance of reporting like that done by The Tribune - reinforcing the privilege at issue.
Of particular note: the Utah appellate case on which Judge Lawrence’s reasoning rests is itself a Tribune case, handled years ago by Michael O’Brien. That 2005 decision (called Schwarz) laid the groundwork for The Tribune’s win in 2023. Another case Michael O’Brien litigated for The Tribune in 1994, involving the unfettered Constitutional right of editorial discretion, played an important role in the Robinson case as well.