If a criminal conviction is expunged, did it ever exist? That’s what the New Jersey Supreme Court is being asked to decide, and its answer will determine whether one who publicizes a conviction after expungement is committing defamation.

The Appellate Division ruled last December that a truthful statement that a person has been convicted of a crime is not actionable, even if the conviction has been expunged. “In our judgment, plaintiff’s successful expungement of his record does not make defendants’ statements about that record ‘false,’” wrote Judge Dorothea Wefing.

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