First Amendment

Many of the leading First Amendment decisions of the state and federal courts in South Carolina arose from Wyche’s successful representation of clients whose First Amendment rights were under attack. In this area, we have not only defended clients who were being sued for exercising their freedom of speech or of the press, but also brought suit on behalf of clients whose First Amendment rights have been violated. Some of the notable speech or press cases we have had include the following:

  • We defended a suit against Forbes over an article published in the magazine criticizing one of the promoters of the Southern Connector toll road outside of Greenville. The plaintiff’s claim was for multiple millions of dollars. We convinced the federal district court to dismiss the suit on the basis of the New York Times actual malice doctrine, and on appeal the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on that ground.
  • We brought suit on behalf of two local newspapers asking the federal district court to order an airport, on First Amendment grounds, to allow the placement of newspaper vending machines in the airport. The district court ruled in our clients’ favor, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in an important appellate decision on the public forum doctrine.
  • We successfully defended the New York Times in a suit alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress over an article reporting police suspicions of cocaine overdose in the death of a local body builder. After a week of trial, the South Carolina Circuit Court directed a verdict in favor of the newspaper on the basis of the First Amendment principle that no one can be held liable for reporting the truth on a matter of legitimate public concern. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed.

We have also successfully represented numerous news organizations in contesting, on First Amendment grounds, subpoenas issued by state and federal courts requiring the production of reporters’ sources, notes, and unedited raw videotape footage prepared in connection with news stories. For a number of years our attorneys have written the South Carolina chapters of the 50-state surveys published by the Media Law Resource Center on “Media Libel Law” and “Media Privacy and Related Law.”