Donald Trump had a long record of filing defamation lawsuits before running for president, and as a candidate he famously vowed to “open up” libel laws to allow more suits. Now, over the past two weeks, his campaign has sued three news organizations, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN, in each case alleging libel. [Eugene Volokh (summarizing Wall Street Journal coverage of Times and Post suits); Fadel Allassan, Axios (CNN suit)] Rep. Devin Nunes, a presidential ally, has filed seven suits against various entities [earlier and more]
Given the broad protections for writing about public figures enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan, few if any of these suits are likely to prevail at final judgment. Still, a suit like this serves “to drag people into court and imposes the time, burden, distraction, and cost of having to defend themselves, with the added benefit that it may make people and the press less willing to criticize these people. ” [Howard Wasserman, PrawfsBlawg] Time for state legislators to consider enacting stronger protections against unfounded suits?