The Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that Connecticut’s “Erasure Statute” does not render factually-true statements about a person’s arrest false.
Connecticut law allows for the destruction of arrest records if an individual is found not guilty, pardoned or the charges are nullified or dismissed. “Any person who shall have been the subject of such an erasure shall be deemed to have never been arrested.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-142a(e)(3).
On August 20, 2010, Lorraine Martin and her two sons were arrested during a drug raid at her home. Several newspapers reported on the arrest and Martin conceded those reports were factually accurate when published.
In January 2012, the state voluntarily dismissed the charges against Martin and her arrest records were erased pursuant to § 54-142a(e)(3).
She then asked the newspapers to remove the articles concerning her arrest from their respective websites. She argued that once the erasure occurred, it became false and defamatory to report on her arrest because, by operation of the Erasure Statute, she was deemed to have never been arrested.
The newspapers refused and Martin filed suit. The federal district court granted summary judgment to the papers, holding that the erasure law “does not alter the historical fact that Ms. Martin was arrested.”
The Second Circuit affirmed, finding that “Martin misunderstands the effect of the Erasure Statute.” That is, “the statute creates legal fictions, but it does not and cannot undo historical facts or convert once-true facts into falsehoods,” the appellate court explained. “Because there is no dispute that the articles published by the [newspapers] accurately report Martin’s arrest, her various publication-related tort claims necessarily fail. Martin’s claims for libel and placing another in a false light fail because the articles do not contain falsehoods. Her claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress fails because there is nothing negligent about publishing a true and newsworthy article.”
The district court’s judgment was affirmed, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied Martin’s petition for review. See: Martin v. Hearst Corp., 777 F.3d 546 (2d Cir. 2015), cert. denied.
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Related legal case
Martin v. Hearst Corp.
|777 F.3d 546 (2d Cir. 2015), cert. denied.
|Court of Appeals
|Appeals Court Edition