Rocker's appeal bid ends

Jun 7, 2016

Boston Herald

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Boston rocker Tom Scholz's appeal of the ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last year dismissing his defamation lawsuit against the Boston Herald and two of its journalists.

A Massachusetts Superior Court judge had dismissed Scholz's claim against the Herald in 2013. That decision was upheld by the SJC in November 2015, and Scholz was ordered to pay the Herald more than $170,000 in court costs. Scholz has since paid the Herald.

Yesterday's decision denying Scholz's bid for a hearing before the high court marks the end of the six-year litigation. When the band Boston's lead singer and signature voice, Brad Delp, committed suicide in March 2007, the Herald published articles reporting on the views of certain individuals who knew him about Delp's state of mind toward the end of his life.

Among those interviewed was Micki Delp, the singer's former wife and close friend. In 2007, Scholz sued Micki for defamation, claiming that she had implied that he was responsible for Delp's decision to take his life. Three years later, Scholz filed similar claims against the Herald and reporters Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa. Raposa has since left the paper.

Both lawsuits were thrown out by judges of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Their rulings dismissing Scholz's lawsuit were affirmed by the Massachusetts SJC late last year.

"We are very pleased that the United States Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court dismissing Mr. Scholz's lawsuit," said Herald publisher Patrick J. Purcell. "As we have said from the beginning, we are proud of the Herald's journalists and the excellent work that they do day in and day out. This is another important day both for the rights of a free press and for the rights to free expression of citizens more broadly."

New York lawyer Floyd Abrams, a constitutional expert who has argued several major First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court, said that the decision in the Herald's favor "leaves in effect a significant speech-protective decision. Reporting about such sensitive and often ultimately unknowable matters is inherently difficult, and the breathing space that the ruling provides to the press in its coverage provides valuable First Amendment protection."

"This is a credit not only to the Herald's reporting," said the Herald's attorney, Jeff Robbins of the Boston firm Mintz Levin, "but to its guts and determination in refusing to back down, and in insisting that well-established First Amendment principles be defended."

Scholz's press representative issued a statement saying that he was "disappointed" by the Supreme Court's decision, and that "Mr. Scholz has been fighting to clear his name and to hold the Boston Herald accountable for a series of false articles that wrongly blamed him for Brad Delp's suicide."