First Amendment Clinic Represents New York Newspaper in First Amendment Retaliation Suit 

In December 2023, the Law School’s First Amendment Clinic filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York against Delaware County on behalf of The Reporter, a newspaper in Delhi, New York. The suit claims that county officials violated the paper’s constitutional rights in dedesignating it as an official paper and in issuing what has amounted to an illegal gag order for county employees. 

Decker Advertising, which publishes The Reporter, alleges that in revoking The Reporter’s designation as the county’s newspaper of record in March 2022, county officials were retaliating for news coverage they didn’t like. 

The dispute between The Reporter and the county is a good illustration of the political divisiveness that is playing out in communities across the country—and the impact it’s having on local news coverage, said Heather Murray, who led the legal team along with First Amendment Clinic Director Mark Jackson and cocounsel Michael Grygiel of Greenberg Traurig. The Local Journalism Project, a special initiative within the clinic, provides pro bono legal counsel for journalists in lawsuits and other matters. 

“In recent years, newspapers have really come under attack,” Murray said. “It’s not just the loss of revenue that we’re concerned about here, but the attempt by government officials to improperly influence the coverage of an independent newspaper. That is really concerning because it strikes at the heart of democracy.” 

The Local Journalism Project provides students and recent graduates with real-world experience in media law. Clinic alumna Yifei Yang ’23 and Matthew Hornung ’24 took the lead in drafting the complaint. 

“I’m grateful to the law school’s First Amendment Clinic for the opportunity to work directly with these incredible journalists on constitutional litigation that will hopefully set a meaningful precedent for local newspapers across New York and the country,” Hornung said.