As a result of a recent incident at the University of Houston involving the death of two students from alcohol poisoning, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle is working on a feature story about college students and alcohol abuse, including a comparison of drinking on campus today to past eras.
The reporter mentions the impending article to a friend, Jennifer Goldstein. Ms. Goldstein was once married to Craig Richey, who is running for mayor of the City of Houston in a primary election coming up in May. Ms. Goldstein tells the reporter that Craig Richey had a drinking problem while he was a University of Texas student in the early 1980s and that he successfully completed a rehab program before graduating. No one was aware at the time that he had the problem or that he had sought treatment; Richey only shared that information with Goldstein when they were later married.
Ms. Goldstein gives the reporter a copy of Craig Richey’s treatment file from the private rehab clinic, which she kept after the divorce. An employee at the clinic confirms that the file is authentic, although he refuses to comment or confirm any of the details in the file. The file is not a public record, and Craig Richey’s college drinking problem has never been discussed in public before. There is no evidence that Craig Richey has had recurring problems with the abuse of alcohol.
The reporter asks Craig Richey for an interview about these issues–he refuses to confirm or deny the information, states that he believes these kinds of questions concern private matters that should not be discussed publicly, and will not answer any questions.
The newspaper publishes the story, in which Craig Richey’ experience as a student and his attendance at a rehabilitation clinic (and his subsequent sobriety) is discussed as an example of college drinking in that previous era. Craig Richey is named in the story, as is the fact that he is a candidate for public office in the upcoming May primary election.
Law (4.5 points):
Craig Richey visits your law office. He tells you that the information is accurate but that he is angry that he was used in the story and wants to know if he has any legal recourse against the newspaper. Advise him about the type of lawsuit that he could file (be clear about the specific cause of action) and explain what elements of the cause of action he would have to prove to win the suit. Explain what the newspaper will say in its legal defense and give him your opinion on his chances of winning.
Ethics (4.5 points):
In your view should the newspaper have included the material about Craig Richey in this story? Or should it have kept the information about Craig Richey out of the paper? Explain your decision. Anticipate the most likely objection to your conclusion and defend your position.
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