Full-Court Press

Bruce S. Rosen expands rights in a field he used to work in: journalism

Published in 2018 New Jersey Super Lawyers — April 2018

During his senior year of high school, working as the editor for his school’s underground newspaper, Bruce S. Rosen printed a student’s letter claiming the true “dirty words” in our language weren’t the dime-a-dozen locker-room swears, but words like “war,” “napalm” and “kill.” 

“They asked our parents to come in and we were dismissed from school for the rest of the day,” says Rosen. “My father started talking about free speech. Having him stand up for me like that—I was amazed. He was a pretty conservative guy at the time.”

Years earlier, his mother made a similar stand for First Amendment rights, quitting her volunteer librarian position at Rosen’s elementary school when a book was pulled from the shelves for containing content that suggested masturbation. Rosen says the two events shaped his life. “To have a part in strengthening the right to speak without consequence has always been important to me,” he says. 

Rosen attended Georgetown and served as an intern for two summers at the local Woodbridge News. Upon graduating, he spent 10 years during the 1970s and ’80s working at The Record

While covering the trial of U.S. Sen. Harrison Williams, who was indicted on nine counts of bribery and conspiracy in the Abscam sting (which was later fictionalized in American Hustle), Rosen had a realization: “His lawyers were not very good,” Rosen says. “I kept saying, ‘I could do this.’”

Thanks to The Record’s tuition program, three-and-a-half years of Rosen’s Seton Hall Law education was paid in full. While he worked toward his law degree at night, Rosen continued to write, for The National Law Journal and The Record.

His first law gig was at Lowenstein Sandler, where—among other things—he worked on cases for CBS. Five years later, Rosen and a handful of other attorneys left to start McCusker, Anselmi, Rosen & Carvelli. He’s since focused much of his time on libel and access-to-information cases.

In one of his most significant cases, Rosen represented The New York Times in its quest to obtain transcripts of emergency-dispatch calls that were made from within the Twin Towers the morning they collapsed.

A Times reporter was working on a book about 9/11, and wanted the transcripts to find proof of a Port Authority worker’s heroic deeds. 

“When the Port Authority commissioners got wind of this, they went crazy and said, ‘No way, we’re not releasing this,’” says Rosen. “The families actually encouraged it, and they wanted [the transcripts] released. We filed a motion for access … and while that was pending, the courts agreed to release it in time for the first anniversary of September 11th.”

In 2011, Rosen represented the New Jersey Press Association and The Record in front of the state Supreme Court in Too Much Media v. Hale. Rosen says the case was one of the earliest in deciding who is considered a reporter; the court’s ruling essentially extended the state’s journalism shield law to blogs and bloggers that use a similar editorial process to that of a newspaper or television program.

Soon after, he represented a Union County political blogger who, Rosen says, had been pressured by a local prosecutor to keep quiet. Using the Too Much Media ruling, he got the subpoena dropped. “It was quashed,” he says. “Basically, she was a journalist—entitled to protections.”

He’s still working on a number of defamation cases—some traditional media, some online and one relating to email. “My fear is that the rules are going to change,” he says. “People don’t appreciate the rights that are afforded by the First Amendment and by New York Times v. Sullivan.” 

And as for being a journalist? He prefers representing them. “For years I had dreams I was still doing it,” Rosen says. “I think I’m over that.” 

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