The law of defamation represents a complex amalgam of common law principles, constitutional doctrine under both the United States Constitution and the Virginia Constitution, and the Virginia Code. The law of defamation, which includes libel, slander, and "insulting words," strikes a delicate balance between two core principles that enjoy a prominent place in both Constitutions: (1) freedom of speech, i.e., the freedom to speak, write, and publish sentiments on all subjects, and to fully express your views and opinions; and (2) the corresponding requirement that citizens be held responsible for abuse of that right. Attempts by Virginia and federal courts to harmonize these dual principles have created a legal patchwork of rules and exceptions.
At BerlikLaw, we are very familiar with these rules and exceptions and use them to protect the rights of our clients. Lee Berlik, author of The Virginia Defamation Law Blog, writes frequently about this evolving and dynamic area of the law. Our practice includes both litigation and counseling on a wide variety of media law and First Amendment issues, including defamation, privacy, newsgathering, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), challenges to governmental and private regulations of speech, commercial speech, advertising, copyright, and Internet and e-commerce. We also offer advice to our business clients on commercial disputes and trade libel claims raising these kinds of issues.
We represent both plaintiffs and defendants in defamation cases. When approached by prospective plaintiffs who feel they have suffered damage to their reputation, we assess the validity and practical impact of the allegations and offer advice with respect to how to mitigate the harm, whether a cause of action exists, and the practical consequences of bringing suit.
Local media outlets often find themselves the target of defamation claims. The Firm's media-focused services include counseling and representation of broadcasters, publishers and reporters in all news-gathering and publication matters, including source protection and the preservation of document confidentiality. We regularly quash overreaching subpoenas and obtain dismissals of meritless or frivolous lawsuits.
Unlike large firms, which often take the approach that more paper and higher fees means “better” representation, here at BerlikLaw the emphasis is on quality over quantity; we discourage useless motions and unfocused discovery practice. Instead, we focus on getting results for our clients as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.