Media Player

Media Player

At nearly six and a half of ft tall, craig t. Merritt takes long, gradual strides when he walks the hallways of his company, a gait as planned as his notion process. His size benefit might be intimidating however he doesn’t use it to intimidate. The alternative. “his demeanor is polite, expert and very comfy,” says ginger stanley, executive director of the virginia press affiliation. “i’ve watched judges end up comfortable with the aid of simply talking to him.” merritt, a associate at christian & barton, handles a number of the biggest media regulation cases in virginia. Lightly. Although merritt seeks quiet resolution, he also delights in going to courtroom. “essentially i’m wired as an ordeal lawyer,” he says. “i’ll take any opportunity to attempt a case; i don’t care what form of case it is.” he has represented media groups on problems starting from defamation defense to reporter’s privilege and get right of entry to. His paintings has concerned getting 911 tapes ruled as public area. He wrote an amicus short to help restriction the scope of “libel by implication,” which occurs when a newspaper article does no longer virtually make an explicitly defamatory announcement, but may additionally state statistics in a manner that sends a defamatory message. He also maintains a healthy complicated industrial litigation exercise and tackles intellectual property and antitrust topics. “we assume craig for the professional know-how of the freedom of records act in virginia,” says stanley. “he has in all likelihood written maximum of the language that is in there during the last two decades. He's past excellent. He has taken one of our instances all the manner to the virginia perfect courtroom for the press affiliation and won.” that case, out of culpeper, worried the town’s board of supervisors, which barred journalists from attending a closed-door assembly. The celebrity exponent sued for access and merritt represented it, arguing that the board improperly used an exclusion to maintain closed meetings. The virginia supreme court docket sided with him in a unanimous selection. “the board of supervisors had attempted a very competitive reading of foia exclusion that accredited them to have a closed consultation,” merritt says. “in effect, they have been the usage of the exclusion for a purpose that it changed into not supposed for.” “he isn't handiest a laser-sharp criminal analyst, but he's an notable communicator,” says edward w. Jones, former editor of fredericksburg’s the unfastened lance-famous person. “and by way of that i imply he's a storyteller. He's someone who can take the essence of a legislative concept or a court selection and communicate it in a storytelling manner that relates to humans. The result is that we've got in craig, on behalf of the press affiliation, an recommend who is eloquent, targeted, persuasive and civil.” raised in charlotte, n. C., by way of blue-collar dad and mom, merritt’s mother was a 2d-generation irish immigrant who labored as a telephone operator. His father, who came from tenant farmers, quit college after seventh grade and commenced his existence of labor at age 11. He might subsequently earn his g. E. D. Inside the air pressure. Merritt accompanied his father’s paintings instance, carrying newspapers and mowing lawns at age eleven. Through 14, he become running summers for an electrical contractor. But there the similarities ended. Merritt’s mother and father were determined that their five children could live in college and obtain the possibilities they did not. Because the oldest, merritt turned into the first to graduate university. After incomes a bachelor’s from duke college, he went directly to the college of north carolina school of regulation and graduated with a j. D. In 1980. His first task as a attorney turned into within the virginia workplace of the legal professional widespread workplace in the antitrust unit. “we were in the technology of the toll road bid-rigging investigations,” merritt says. “the u. S. Antitrust division had grand juries taking place here in richmond. Some of contractors who had been doing street-paving paintings were getting together some instances a year at diverse places and allocating paintings among themselves, which of course allowed them to raise costs. So what we had been doing changed into going at the back of the federal grand jury and doing comply with-up civil cases for the state, essentially amassing fines and penalties and damages. … i saw a parade of some of the finest attorneys representing these groups and firms all up and down the east coast. To be a couple of years out of regulation school and be in this heady company turned into very thrilling.” inside the spring of 1985, merritt left the ag’s office for christian & barton. On the outset, he treated antitrust and white-collar protection. Then he met sandy wellford, the company’s media regulation professional. He mentored merritt and shared his encyclopedic know-how of first amendment regulation. Merritt became hooked. One of the best classes he learned from wellford was the significance of creating complicated subjects understandable to a layperson. “in these days while people report those horrendous 30- and forty-web page briefs full of string citations and lousy grammar,” says merritt, “sandy could write a 5-web page brief that became so perfectly crafted and so persuasive that it said everything that needed to be stated. He changed into a remarkable mentor simply as a creator and an analyst due to the fact he may want to get to the essence of things.” as merritt flourished in media law, the media took note. So it became no wonder that after a juvenile court docket decide in newport news, va., ruled in october 2013 that journalists couldn't put up the names of witnesses who had testified in a hearing for murder suspect antwain steward, merritt were given the decision. Steward, a local rapper who is going with the aid of twain gotti, turned into charged with a double homicide that dates back to 2007. The beat newshounds had been baffled approximately the ruling: the witnesses had testified in open courtroom and their names had been a part of the general public report. “one of the core concepts of the primary amendment is that we don’t do that on this country,” says merritt. “we don’t tell humans what they can or can not post. We preserve them accountable after the reality for bad picks they make in the event that they defame a person. … but speech is this type of valuable middle cost for us that it takes extraordinary instances for the government which will justify announcing to a newspaper or a tv station or a blogger that we're going to restrict you from writing or speaking about this.” merritt filed a motion with the circuit courtroom to have the previous restraint thrown out, however he additionally shared the premise for his criminal argument with the prosecution. Understanding their role become not constitutionally permissible, prosecutors withdrew their request to suppress the names, and the circuit courtroom choose vacated the lower court docket’s ruling. The steward case is emblematic of merritt’s modus operandi—striving to clear up subjects behind the scenes earlier than they go to courtroom. “occasionally by the point something receives to court docket, it’s due to the fact you failed and that’s the final opportunity,” he says. “when you are capable of sit down down with the opposite side and creatively get a few kind of solution worked out so that nobody would ever have to choose up a newspaper and study about it—those are truly your quality days.” there’s a vague irony on this, of direction—merritt fights media suppression but attempts to hold those cases out of the media—however his work is greatly preferred through his newspaper and television-station customers. A lot in order that he often vets their stories for them. “he is a valued aid for those times while a media organization is out at the limb on publishing something it thinks the general public should realize about but desires to do it in a manner that is fair to all and sundry worried,” says tom silvestri, writer of the richmond instances-dispatch. “whilst my editors say they've talked to craig and he stated we may want to move ahead with our story without making changes, i recognize i don’t need to worry.” certainly, in 2009, the storytellers’ storyteller turned into feted with an induction into the virginia communications corridor of reputation. A fitting tribute for a person whose first process turned into wearing newspapers. In a experience, he’s nevertheless doing that. “a whole lot of humans could be surprised to realize that with few exceptions, the press does not have any special rights of get entry to,” says merritt. “the click is simply workout a proper that belongs to the public. Each time the press makes an foia request they're no longer exercising any proper which you or i as people can't workout. The element that’s important approximately it is that they may be within the business of workout that right every day on our behalf. And to the quantity that they lose that proper, you lose it, too.”