David Lovejoy was a candidate in the 2009 election for sheriff of a New Hampshire county. His
David Lovejoy was a candidate in the 2009 election for sheriff of a New Hampshire county. His opponent was the incumbent sheriff, James Linehan. During the election campaign, the Portsmouth Herald published an article that contained the following: "A record provided to the Herald said Lovejoy was involved in a case of simple assault and was convicted in 1989. Lovejoy said the case was annulled and was thrown out of court by the judge." Alleging that Linehan and Peirce had provided the reporter information about the annulled conviction, Lovejoy sued Linehan, Mark Peirce (a deputy sheriff and Linehan's second-in-command), and the reporter. Lovejoy contended that the statements regarding the annulled conviction constituted a particular form of invasion of privacy: public disclosure of private facts. Lovejoy later dropped his claim against the reporter but continued to pursue it against Linehan and Peirce. Lovejoy's complaint alleged that the disclosure by Linehan and Peirce regarding the annulled conviction "put the plaintiff in a position of having to publicly discuss a matter that the legislature has declared private, confidential, and prohibited from publicity under a New Hampshire statute." The New Hampshire statute to which Lovejoy referred provides that upon the entry of an annulment order, "the person whose record is annulled shall be treated in all respects as if he had never been arrested, convicted, or sentenced," except in certain circumstances not relevant to Lovejoy's case. The statute further states that "a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if, during the life of another who has had a record of arrest or conviction annulled pursuant to this section, he discloses or communicates the existence of such record" (except as provided in a list of exceptions inapplicable to Lovejoy's case). Linehan and Peirce moved to dismiss Lovejoy's claim, and the trial court granted the motion. Lovejoy appealed, arguing that especially in light of the above-quoted statute, the trial court erred in concluding that his annulled conviction was not private and was instead a matter of legitimate public concern. Was the trial court correct in its ruling, or did Lovejoy state a valid claim for public disclosure of private facts?
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