The Arizona Supreme Court has held that a person “‘is not automatically transformed into a public figure just by becoming involved in or associated with a matter that attracts public attention.’” Id. (quoting Wolston v. Reader’s Digest Ass’n, Inc., 443 U.S. 157, 167 (1979). Rather, the person must voluntarily assume a position that invites attention. Id. at 485 (quoting McDowell v. Paiewonsky, 769 F.2d 942, 950 (3rd Cir. 1985). In that regard, the Court has stated that “doing business with the government, being swept up in a controversy over an issue of public interest or concern, being named in articles creating a public controversy, and defending oneself against charges leveled in the media are all insufficient to automatically transform a private individual into a public figure.” Id. at 484.
Arizona courts and the 9th Circuit have held the following individuals, among others, to be limited-purpose public figures:
A “publicly self‑acknowledged former hoodlum and organized crime enforcer” who testified against a mob boss in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Scottsdale Publ’g, Inc. v. Superior Court, 159 Ariz. 72, 73, 74 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1988).
A World War II veteran who had authorized a biography and solicited press coverage of that work. Thomas v. Los Angeles Times Commc’ns. LLC, 45 Fed. Appx. 801, 803 (9th Cir. 2002).
The insurance agent of record for an Arizona county, where the insurance agent made recommendations resulting in substantial expenditures from the public and financially benefited from his position, although he was not actually employed by the county. Dombey, 150 Ariz. at 484‑85.
An individual, in suing his former employer for defamation, who had contacted the media regarding his claims of wrongful termination and sent his complaint to approximately twenty companies in related business fields. Prendeville v. Singer, 155 Fed. Appx. 303, 305-06 (9th Cir. 2005).