Nashville prosecutor Glenn Funk is in the middle of a tangled legal drama to find out what led to negative news stories about him last year, The Tennessean reports. The person who released the information that prompted those reports admitted he did so, but Funk still wants one of the city’s most prominent television reporters to answer some questions under oath. Funk’s libel lawsuit against NewsChannel 5 chief investigative reporter Phil Williams has been pending since February, after Williams reporting on a deal Funk made with developer David Chase.
Today, a judge will hear Funk’s request to order Williams to answer some specific questions. It is Funk’s right to take the veteran newsman to court over what Funk alleges is defaming reporting. But it is an unusual move for a public official who is subject to a higher standard of scrutiny. Lawsuits against the media can be costly (Funk is paying from his own pocket, according to his lawyer) and distracting, media law experts say. “They’re exceedingly rare” said David Ardia of the Center for Media Law and Policy at the North Carolina School of Law. “Which is a little bit of a head scratcher, because you don’t typically expect public officials to use defamation law when they have the ability to speak directly to the public and correct what they perceive as false information.”