Attorney: Media Six to pursue an appeal

Martinsville Bulletin – September 17, 2006

The attorney for Charles Roark and Media Six said Friday they will continue trying to appeal a $75,000 defamation judgment.

Virginia Beach attorney L. Steven Emmert said he has about a week to petition a state Supreme Court panel to rehear Roark and Media Six’s petition for an appeal of the judgment.

“It will be due next Friday,” Emmert said Friday. “We’ll do it (file) on or before then.”

The panel turned it down Sept. 8, ruling there was no “reversible error” in a Roanoke City Circuit Court jury’s decision Roark and Media Six had defamed Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar by printing a letter in the buzz tabloid.

Ziglar won a $75,000 judgment in December after the jury ruled that a letter from an inmate accusing Ziglar of official misdoing was defamatory. During the trial, Roark and buzz staff admitted they did nothing to check the truthfulness of the letter.

Emmert said this is an important case because the original ruling could limit press freedom.

“The importance is what is your ability to run letters to the editors on a page?” he said.

Emmert said it would take significant staff resources if editors are expected to fact check every letter. He also said “any time you’re worried that printing any criticism of a public official could get you sued,” it could discourage papers from printing critical letters.