samantha barbas standing in the library in front of books.

A hard look at defamation and privacy law

Sometimes judges disagree and over time case law gets complicated.

That’s a problem the American Law Institute, for nearly a century, has tackled with its Restatement of the Law project. ALI, a nonprofit organization that produces scholarly work to clarify and modernize the law nationwide, is in its third iteration of the project, first begun in 1923.

For more information including a full list of project participants, visit the American Law Institute website.

Now the organization has asked Professor Samantha Barbas to contribute her expertise to an important next step in the project. Along with a distinguished list of jurists, legal scholars and corporate lawyers, Barbas will serve as an adviser to Restatement of the Law Third, Torts: Defamation and Privacy.

Barbas was invited to participate in the project based on the strength of her many publications on defamation, libel and privacy law. “Often the law in these common law areas will line up one way in a majority of states. The Restatement might endorse the majority rule as being of sound principles, or it might recommend an alternative or minority rule.” The advisers are studying a draft of the restatement in preparation for a March 26 virtual meeting to discuss the draft and suggest revisions.

Once it’s put into final form, the Restatement will be made publicly available. Barbas explains that it’s intended to serve as guidance for courts as they work through defamation and privacy issues. “It’s referenced as an authoritative treatise on these areas of law,” she says. The updates will address, in particular, new issues relating to the internet.

Restatement of the Law Third, which was begun in 1987, has dealt with such areas as foreign relations law, the law governing lawyers, suretyship and guaranty, and unfair competition. But privacy and defamation law have particular currency. “The proliferation of online media and so-called fake news and disinformation have really provoked the need to reconsider the rules in this field,” Barbas says.

The group of advisers comprises 61 people, some of them relatively new scholars, and some well-established in the field. And the happenstance of the alphabet has the professor listed right next to perhaps the group’s most recognized member: Hon. Amy Coney Barrett, the nation’s newest U.S. Supreme Court justice.