Media & First Amendment Law, Environmental Law, and Complex Commercial Litigation
"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
Thomas Jefferson, 1786
"Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. ... And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants" — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion."
John F. Kennedy, 1961
“Freedom is only meaningful if it includes all speech, no matter who is offended by it. It would be a hazardous undertaking for anyone to start separating the permissible speech from the impermissible, using the standard of offensiveness. The freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment is indivisible. You can’t take it away from [one person or group] and keep it for yourself."
Herald Price Fahringer
We here at Finnerty Osterreicher & Abdulla are fully committed to advancing and defending the rights of the Press in all aspects of news gathering and dissemination. Our clients range from individual journalists to not-for-profit news organizations to multi-million dollar media corporations. Whether it involves pre-publication review or defamation defense, Freedom of Information Law or access matters, defending the press from subpoenas and enforcing shield laws, or protecting photojournalists' intellectual property rights, we are here to support journalism, journalists, and defend the First Amendment.
In addition to Media & First Amendment Law, we have decades of experience in many other areas of law including sophisticated business litigation, state and federal environmental law, insurance contract law, administrative law, toxic torts, and professional liability defense. We have successfully appeared and argued matters in a variety of tribunals ranging from local courts to state and federal appellate courts.
Joseph M. Finnerty
Tel: 716-340-2200 x. 223
Mickey H. Osterreicher
Tel: 716-340-2200 x. 224
Karim A. Abdulla
Tel: 716-340-2200 x. 225
Joseph M. Finnerty
With over 40 years of legal experience, Joe Finnerty represents print, electronic, and internet-based news media organizations in all aspects of news gathering and dissemination, First Amendment issues, and defamation defense. Of his many cases, Joe won a decision declaring New York’s statutory ban on cameras in the courtroom inapplicable to photographic coverage. That ruling came in the nationally infamous trial of James Kopp for the sniper murder of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian. Joe has written many articles and has spoken at numerous events with respect to Media Law issues.
Joe also has been centrally involved in multiple high-profile, commercial-litigation career cases including, along with late law partner John Stenger, successfully defending Erie County against $620 million of lost-profits breach-of-contract damages claims resulting from an aborted domed-stadium project in Buffalo. The county prevailed on all profits claims after two jury trials—one of which lasted 13 months, which was then thought to be the longest civil-jury trial in NY history—and two trips to New York’s highest appellate court. These Court of Appeals decisions, known simply as Kenford I and Kenford II, still stand as the principal NY authorities on lost profits damages in breach-of-contract actions.
Joe's experience also includes representing one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies in a breach-of-contract action against domestic and foreign general-liability-insurance carriers and reinsurers to recover its expenditures for environmental cleanups at, among other sites, the Love Canal. This matter involved the coordination and supervision of a massive discovery effort that involved constructing a screening facility and employing over 100 document screeners and more than 12 lawyers to review over 23 million documents.
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Mickey H. Osterreicher
Mickey Osterreicher is an award-winning photojournalist with over forty years’ experience in print and broadcast journalism. His work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Time, Newsweek and USA Today, as well as on ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News and ESPN.
As a lawyer, Mr. Osterreicher is well-versed and actively counsels clients on all aspects of news-gathering including cameras in the courtroom, the federal shield law, media access to public proceedings, public photography, anti-paparazzi statutes, drones, copyright, and fair use.
In addition to being Of Counsel to Finnerty Osterreicher & Abdulla, Mr. Osterreicher serves as general counsel to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). He is a member of the New York State Bar Association Media Law Committee, the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) newsgathering committee and the First Amendment Lawyers Association (FALA). He writes for the NPPA and the MLRC as well as other online publications, and has been interviewed by and quoted national news media outlets on matters of news gathering and dissemination.
He has been an adjunct lecturer in Photojournalism at SUNY at Buffalo and an adjunct law professor in media and the law at the University at Buffalo Law School. Mr. Osterreicher has been both a panelist and moderator of numerous drone programs including Poynter-NPPA sponsored Drone Journalism Workshops, the NPPA Drone Journalism Leadership Summits, AUVSI panels on drone use for newsgathering as well as media law-enforcement cooperation regarding the use of drones for the Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA). He also serves as co-chair of Drone Use subcommittee of the MLRC newsgathering committee. In 2015 the Pepperdine Law Review published his paper: Charting the Course for Use of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems in Newsgathering and in 2018 he helped develop a survey resulting in a white paper from the Center for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison: “Drones in the News: Journalist Conceptions and Public Engagement.” He was also a member of the FAA Beyond Visual Line of Sight Aviation Rulemaking Committee 2014-2015.
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) honored him in 2015 as a “Fellow of the Society,” the highest professional honor given by the Society for extraordinary contribution to the profession. He is a Trustee of the Alexia Foundation, promoting world peace and cultural understanding through the power of photojournalism.
He has provided training regarding First and Fourth Amendment issues to law enforcement agencies throughout the country such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National Sheriffs Association (NSA). He has been a uniformed reserve deputy with the Erie County Sheriff’s Department since 1976 in 1994 he was honored by the Erie County Sheriff’s Department with the Reserve Division Award and in 2017 he was named Reserve Deputy of the Year by the ECSO and Erie County Deputy Sheriff’s Badge and Shield Club. Osterreicher is a member of ILEETA as well as being a member of the Public Recording of Police Advisory Committee of the IACP. He is also certified as having been trained under the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
Mr. Osterreicher graduated cum laude in 1973 from SUNY at Buffalo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Photojournalism/Photography and received his Juris Doctor, cum laude from the University of Buffalo Law School in 1998. He is admitted to practice in New York State, U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second and Fourth Circuits as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Karim A. Abdulla
A civil litigation attorney with over 20 years of experience, Karim Abdulla has a proven track record of successful client representation from local city courts through the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. His client base ranges from individuals and small businesses to not-for-profit companies to large corporate entities. Representative clients range from media organizations (newspapers, television stations, radio stations, and individual journalists) to major utility providers to government agencies.
Mr. Abdulla has been practicing Media and First Amendment Law for two decades. His work on behalf of the media includes: pre-publication review of articles and manuscripts on behalf of newspapers and book publishers; counseling both media clients and public agencies with respect to state and federal Freedom of Information (FOIL/FOIA) matters; prosecution of FOIL/FOIA appeals and Article 78 Proceedings; representing and counseling media entities with respect to court access matters; responding to subpoenas issued to members of the media; defamation defense litigation; and representing media outlets with respect to copyright matters. He has been a guest lecturer at Canisius College and Syracuse University', advising journalism students on FOIL/FOIA matters, and has presented programming to media workshops (including Investigative Reporters & Editors) regarding same.
Mr. Abdulla has also successfully defended matters involving employment law (defense of wrongful termination and defense of claims involving alleged civil rights violations), creditor’s rights (FDCPA claims and bankruptcy matters), intellectual property law (trademark and copyright), professional liability law (legal and medical malpractice claims), and environmental law (CERCLA, RCRA, Clean Air Act and New York State Navigation Law). He also has experience in providing insurance coverage analysis.
Over the course of his career, Karim has appeared and successfully argued cases before several of New York's Appellate Divisions and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and has successfully briefed matters to the Court of Appeals.
Mr. Abdulla graduated in 1994 from McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario) with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He received his Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University's Franklin Thomas Backus School of Law (Cleveland, Ohio) in 1999. He is currently admitted to practice in New York State and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
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