Judd McIlvain, a longtime local news reporter at stations in Houston and Los Angeles, has died at his home in California. He was 73. “Judd was one of those reporters who sought justice for the little guy that couldn’t help himself, and he was a tireless crusader for the downtrodden,” KPRC anchor Bill Balleza told the Houston Chronicle. “He was the hardest-working reporter I have ever known. He had the energy of 10 reporters, trying to find ways to help people. He spoke from the heart, and he told the truth.”
McIlvain worked alongside Balleza at Houston CBS station KHOU in the 1980s. McIlvain’s investigative franchise, “The McIlvain Files,” ran during his 18-year tenure at the station. He later worked in Los Angeles at KCBS and KTTV.
McIlvain is also remembered for being part of a case at the core of Texas libel law:
McIlvain was described as “the reporter from central casting” by Houston attorney Bill Ogden, who represented him in a landmark Texas Supreme Court case, McIlvain vs. Jacobs, that was the prevailing opinion in the “substantial truth” doctrine of libel law in the state for 20 years.
“That case stood for the proposition that when you write an article or broadcast reporting on a government investigation, if you show that the investigation occurred and that you described it accurately, then your report is substantially true,” Ogden said.
Ogden said the 1990 decision was widely cited until the court refined its standards in a split decision in 2013.