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Los Angeles attorney Robert B. Silverman has accused Los Angeles Times writer Michael Hiltzik of illegally taping their phone call, Courthouse News Service reported.  Silverman says he didn’t know or give Hiltzik permission to tape their calls, and found out after the fact.

Silverman has filed a class action lawsuit against Hiltzik over the issue and suggested that he could have “recorded hundreds, or thousdands, of such telepone conversations,” Courthouse News reported.

As Courthouse News explained, California state law states that “a recorded call requires the consent of all parties on the line, so if one speaker records a call without informing the other, it is called wiretapping.”  Media Bistro disputed Courthouse News Service’s description of California wire tapping law, claiming that “Wiretapping is the monitoring of a telephone transmission by an unauthorized 3rd party, and that doesn’t apply to this case.”  However, the Citizen Media Law Project notes that California law requires “two-party consent” for recording or listening in.

The Los Angeles Times seemingly dismissed the charges, according to Courthouse News Service. Communications vice president  Nancy Sullivan noted that Hiltzik “has not been served,” described the lawsuit as “baseless” and added that Silverman has tried to sue the Los Angeles Times “three other” times but the cases “have been thrown out of court.”

There are billboard ads promoting the class action lawsuit, Media Bistro wrote.  The ads read (misspelling included): “CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: Illegaly [sic] Wire-Tapped by the LA Times Call: 619-238-1333 Attorney at Law Jeffrey Krinsk.”  According to the LA Times, Krinsk noted that “there is no effort to locate plaintiffs.”  The LA Times published Krinsk’s e-mail to the LA Times here.

LA Observed published an internal Oct. 20 e-mail from Los Angeles Times president Kathy Thomson about the billboards.  The e-mail defends the Los Angeles Times “ethics and integrity” and disputes the claims of “wiretapping and fraud.”  Thomson suggested that Silverman’s attorney Krinsk bought the ads, noting Silverman’s lawsuit, which she called “meritless.”

Thomson added that ” the lawsuit does not allege either wiretapping or fraud, as suggested by the billboards.”

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An Oct. 21 Los Angeles Times story reported that Nancy Sullivan said “Hiltzik did not record any conversations with Silverman.”

The Times explained that Silverman “represents 1-800-GET-THIN, a company that markets Lap-Band weight-loss surgery” and that the Times “has published a series of articles and columns detailing the deaths of five patients after having Lap-Band surgery at centers affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN.”

More specifically, “Silverman has represented 1-800-GET-THIN and two of the people behind the campaign, Michael and Julian Omidi, in three lawsuits against The Times and its journalists. All three lawsuits were dismissed. The Omidis were ordered to pay The Times legal expenses in two of the cases.  They have filed appeals in all three cases.”

iMediaEThics has written to the LA Times’ Nancy Sullivan for more information and will update with any response.

Hat Tip: Editor and Publisher

UPDATE: 10/24/2011 4:27 PM EST: The LA Times’ Nancy Sullivan responded to iMediaEthics’ e-mail inquiry asking if Hiltzik had been served. She wrote “I can confirm that Mr. Hiltzik has been served, but need to direct you to the court for a copy of the suit if you are interested in what it contains.” She added that the LA Times has no further comment outside of its statement (here).

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