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|Size||60 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 17,000 items)|
|Abstract||William Carroll Lassiter of Raleigh, N.C., was an attorney specializing in cases involving libel and the press, and, from 1938 to 1979, served as general counsel and chief lobbyist for the North Carolina Press Association. The collection includes William Carroll Lassiter's files relating chiefly to legal cases and to newspaper law; correspondence, notes, and other material relating to lobbying the North Carolina General Assembly; published materials; and other items. Case files contain court papers of many types concerning libel, privacy rights, enforcement of the North Carolina Open Meetings statute, access to public records, and judicial gag orders. Materials relating to Lassiter's service in World War II also are included.|
|Creator||Lassiter, William Carroll, 1909-|
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William Carroll Lassiter was born in Smithfield, N.C., on 5 March 1909. His father, Thomas James Lassiter, was an editor and co-owner of the Smithfield Herald, half ownership of which upon his sudden death was actively retained by his widow, Rena Bingham Lassiter. William's mother was joined in the family business in 1934 by his younger brother, Thomas James Lassiter Jr., who eventually became primary owner (with William and his mother owning smaller percentages) of the paper, as well as its publisher and editor.
William Lassiter attended Smithfield public schools, and graduated from Duke University with an AB degree in 1930; he remained at the Duke to earn his law degree in 1933. In that same year, he commenced the practice of law in Raleigh, N.C., with Willis Smith and I.M. Bailey.
In 1938, Lassiter became general counsel and chief lobbyist to the state legislature for the North Carolina Press Association, of which his father and brother had, at various times, served as president. In his service as lobbyist, Lassiter was influential in fashioning North Carolina's open meeting law, while his reputation as a libel lawyer, his many published articles, and his outspokenness on issues regarding the First Amendment garnered him national recognition as the state's preeminent authority on newspaper law. Lassiter left lobbying in 1979, but continued to advise the North Carolina Press Association and its member newspapers on legal matters until 1984, even doing so in an unofficial capacity after that date.Back to Top
The collection includes lawyer William Carroll Lassiter's files relating chiefly to legal cases and to newspaper law; correspondence, notes, and other material relating to lobbying the North Carolina General Assembly; published materials; and other items. Case files contain court papers of many types concerning libel, privacy rights, enforcement of the North Carolina Open Meetings statute, access to public records, and judicial gag orders. Materials relating to Willaim Carroll Lassiter's service in World War II also are included.Back to Top
Arrangement: chronological, then by House or Senate proposal.
These materials consist largely of correspondence, business and financial records, notes and memoranda, and copies of the proposed bills and amendments with Lassiter's critiques thereof, derived from his lobbying in the North Carolina General Assembly for the North Carolina Press Association.
These materials are Lassiter's legal case files. The cases, which he either tried personally or on which he served as a consultant, reflect his longtime duty as counsel for the North Carolina Press Association and its member newspapers and his professional interest in First Amendment issues. The cases concern violations of the right of privacy; civil actions for libel; enforcement of the North Carolina Open Meetings statute; access to public records; and judicial gag orders, which Lassiter characterized as fair trial versus free press.
The files contain court papers of every type (e.g., complaints, pleadings, motions, orders, and judgments), court records, legal briefs and memoranda, petitions, and depositions. In the libel case files, the libelous newspaper column leading to the litigation is often exhibited; for otherwise newsworthy cases, pertinent news material can be found in most files. If the case spurred Lassiter to comment in his own column, "Law and Press," contributed to the Press Association's monthly The North Carolina Press , a typed draft may be filed. The correspondence, official and personal, derived in each case is included. The final box of files in this series contains miscellaneous material.
The year on each file is usually the date of the passing of final judgment on the case, whether in Superior, District, Appellate, or Supreme court (one case involving Lassiter reached the United States Supreme Court). Each file is designated below by its case title (which normally corresponds to that given to it by Lassiter on the outside of each file), and the files are then further arranged within each year alphabetically.
Case summaries from various published Reporters, an assortment of periodicals and books, and a residue of miscellaneous items. The case summaries reflect Lassiter's regard for the First Amendment; they cover cases involving libel, privacy, public records, open meetings, freedom of speech versus the right to a fair trial, and any others that would concern one who is a defender of the press. Noteworthy among the periodicals are complete sets of some volumes of the North Carolina Press Association's monthly, The North Carolina Press, in addition to a large amount of unorganized issues that might constitute more whole volumes. The books mostly address newspaper and media law, although a few general law texts are included, in addition to a set containing briefs of landmark constitutional cases.
Information in quotation marks is from captions supplied by William Carroll Lassiter.
"Files on various subjects of newspaper law, containing copies of letters to members of NCPA, memoranda, court decisions, and other materials." #04485, Subseries: "Addition of July 1989 (Acc. 89087)." Box 31
An index, prepared by William Carroll Lassiter, follows.
Miscellaneous short writings (chiefly articles and speeches, 1939-1988).
Processed by: David Weber, Roslyn Holdzkom, 1989
Encoded by: Eben Lehman, February 2007Back to Top