Search Results for ‘trump libel’

Donald Trump and libel litigation

Presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaking today: “We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.” Trump also said of Amazon, whose Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, a newspaper that just ran an editorial seeking to rally opposition to Trump: “If I become president, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

The President has no direct power to change libel law, which consists of state law constrained by constitutional law as laid out by the Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan. A President could appoint Justices intent on overturning the press protections of Sullivan or promote a constitutional amendment to overturn it. Assuming one or the other eventually was made to happen, further changes in libel law would probably require action at the state level, short of some novel attempt to create a federal cause of action for defamation.

But although Trump is unlikely to obtain the exact set of changes he outlines, the outburst is psychologically revealing. Donald Trump has been filing and threatening lawsuits to shut up critics and adversaries over the whole course of his career. He dragged reporter Tim O’Brien through years of litigation over a relatively favorable Trump biography that assigned a lower valuation to his net worth than he thought it should have. He sued the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic over a piece arguing that a planned Trump skyscraper in lower Manhattan would be “one of the silliest things” that could be built in the city. He used the threat of litigation to get an investment firm to fire an analyst who correctly predicted that the Taj Mahal casino would not be a financial success. He sued comedian Bill Maher over a joke.

I have been writing about the evils of litigation for something like 30 years, and following the litigious exploits of Donald Trump for very nearly that long. I think it very plausible to expect that if he were elected President, he would bring to the White House the same spirit of litigiousness he has so often shown as a public figure. (cross-posted at Cato at Liberty)

P.S. Also reprinted at Newsweek. And Ilya Somin cites further elements forming a pattern: Trump has expressed his wish to “have the FCC take some of his critics off the airwaves” and his regret that protesters at his events could not be dealt with in such a way that they “have to be carried out on a stretcher.” He also writes that should Trump proceed to appoint judges who strongly share his view of libel law, those judges “are unlikely to effectively protect other important speech rights and civil liberties.” And a late-January post from Patterico recalls Trump threats against the Washington Post (again), John Kasich, a t-shirt company, and a Jeb Bush PAC, to which might be added the Club for Growth, reporter Tim Mak, Scotland, Univision, and many more. Yet more: Mike Masnick, TechDirt.

Trump and regulatory retaliation: a letter

Here’s a letter to the editor I sent to the Washington Post that they didn’t publish, responding to a piece by their business columnist Steven Pearlstein.

To the editor:

Steven Pearlstein (Dec. 2) writes with apparent approval of the prospect that President Trump will “make an example of a runaway company by sending in the tax auditors or the OSHA inspectors or cancelling a big government contract. It won’t matter that, two years later, these highly publicized retaliations are thrown out by a federal judge somewhere. Most companies …will find a way to conform to the new norm.”

I was reminded of Paul Farhi’s revealing story in the Post last March about Donald Trump’s prolonged, losing libel suit against reporter Timothy O’Brien. Per that report, Trump “said in an interview that he knew he couldn’t win the suit but brought it anyway to make a point. “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”

The knowing use of a flimsy legal case to retaliate or intimidate, to inflict punishments or extract concessions a judge would never have ordered, is no more excusable when aimed at other sorts of businesses and professionals than when aimed at the press and reporters. In both cases it is wrong, it sets a bullying example to others, and it endangers the impartial rule of law.

— W.O.

(cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)

Donald Trump sends nastygram to Club for Growth

Public figure Donald Trump, target of a Club for Growth attack ad, has responded in characteristic manner by firing off a cease and desist letter to the club [Business Insider, Chris Cilizza/Washington Post] Trump lawyer Alan Garten calls the ad:

“…replete with outright lies, false, defamatory attacks and destructive statements and downright fabrications which you fully know to be untrue, thereby exposing you and your so-called ‘club’ to liability for damages and other tortious harm,” Garten wrote.

Garten said he was only willing to offer the Club for Growth a “one-time opportunity to rectify this matter” and avoid “what will certainly be a costly litigation process.”

“In the event, however, that we do not receive these assurances, please be advised that we will commence a multi-million dollar lawsuit against you personally and your organization for your false and defamatory statements,” he concluded. “Please be guided accordingly.”‘

Four years ago I wrote about Trump’s long record of using litigation and its threat as a weapon against critics and journalists whose account of his business dealings he found displeasing, and questioned whether this pattern harmonized well with general Republican/conservative disapproval of the unnecessary use of litigation. Earlier on Trump. More: Jonathan Adler (“suit has no legal basis” and “is what is commonly known as a SLAPP suit — a suit that’s designed to shut people up.”)

Free speech roundup

  • Guidelines urge UK prosecutors to charge those who “egg on others” to violate social media speech laws [The Register]
  • Mississippi county’s ban on clown costumes probably violates the First Amendment [Eugene Volokh]
  • Propositions placed before voters in Washington, Oregon, Missouri, South Dakota would require nonprofits to disclose donors. Chilling effects ahead should they pass [Tracie Sharp and Darcy Olsen, WSJ]
  • Blogger critical of Houston cancer researcher put through FBI investigation (and cleared) following dubious complaint [Ken White, Popehat]
  • And they’re right. “New York law to combat Citizens United is ‘constitutionally unsound’ says NYCLU” [Ronald K.L. Collins] Would Michael Moore’s anti-Trump film have run afoul of pre-Citizens United law? [Trevor Burrus]
  • Trying to count how many journalists Donald Trump has threatened to sue “quickly turned into a fool’s errand.” [Trevor Timm, Columbia Journalism Review, earlier here, etc., etc.; related, Steve Chapman on corrections] And: Trump libel threat clock resets to zero each time the mogul threatens to sue a journalist or critic. Even more: fearful he will sue, ABA stifles report critical of Trump’s litigation [New York Times]

Free speech roundup

  • Good news for Donald Trump! Sticking with speech-protective opinion rule, New York judge dismisses libel suit by PR consultant against him based on his derogatory tweets [ABA Journal]
  • “Jawboning” at FCC, under which media companies bend to commissioners’ wishes on content and hiring rather than risk their disapproval, should be recognized as danger to both First Amendment and rule of law [Brent Skorup and Christopher Koopman, Regulation via Cato Institute Tumblr summary]
  • The family of Ahmed Mohamed, of schoolboy clock fame, may have to pay $200,000 or more to targets of frivolous libel suits [Popehat]
  • Harsh epithets, calls for investigation and accusations of whitewashing, rhetorical comparisons to infamous persons could all lead to media liability if D.C. Court of Appeals reasoning in Michael Mann case isn’t overturned [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry, Cato, earlier]
  • NYC, San Francisco criminalize listing property on AirBnB except on authorized conditions. A question of commercial speech [Glenn Lammi, WLF]
  • Can Colorado regulate groups that run ads with the message “call your lawmaker to support this bill”? [Ilya Shapiro and Thomas Berry]

Free speech roundup

  • Tomorrow (Tues., Dec. 6) Cato Digital presents panel discussion “Free Speech in the Age of Trump” with Flemming Rose, Nick Gillespie, and Kat Murti [register or watch live online]
  • Eventually, Supreme Court will have to consider a First Amendment challenge to cyberbullying laws [ABA Journal]
  • Tactical use of libel suits cries out for remedy, but some remedies that are being proposed are hard to square with federalism [Sasha Moss, R Street]
  • Bill pending in Congress to protect consumer reviews (Yelp, etc.) would allow special restrictions on speech “inappropriate with respect to race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or other intrinsic characteristic” which could prove an ominous precedent [Eugene Volokh]
  • Is there a prospect for sanctions should Donald Trump sue the press for defamation? [Eric Turkewitz, pre-election if that matters]
  • Count the ways: “The government has double standards about freedom of speech” [Hans Bader]

Media law roundup

  • In latest of string of courtroom losses for media, Raleigh News & Observer hit with nearly $6 million libel verdict [Corey Hutchins, CJR] Profile of Charles Harder, newly prominent attorney in suits against media [Hollywood Reporter]
  • Following coverage of taco trademark dispute, lawyer demands takedown of image on news story [TechDirt] “California Supreme Court will decide: Can court order Yelp to take down defendant’s post, though Yelp wasn’t even a party to the lawsuit?” [Volokh]
  • Theodore Boutrous: “I will represent pro bono anyone Trump sues for exercising their free speech rights. Many other lawyers have offered to join me.” [Ronald K.L. Collins, related chronology of Trump’s record of legal conflict with press]
  • Familiar old war on porn re-outfits itself as new war on trafficking [Collins, Elizabeth Nolan Brown on so-called Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA)]
  • Another where-are-they-now on copyright troll Prenda Law [Joe Mullin/ArsTechnica, see also on Hansmeier]
  • “The ‘freedom of the press’ doesn’t give the media any special privileges — but it’s also not a redundancy” [Eugene Volokh]

Free speech roundup

  • New, much-anticipated documentary Can We Take a Joke? When Outrage and Comedy Collide [on demand, Greg Lukianoff] More on the fining of comedian Mike Ward by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal [Guardian, earlier]
  • “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” [@donaldjtrump Sunday on Twitter] 25 years ago in my stump speech on lawsuit reform I criticized Trump for his use of legal threats to silence critics. More reportage on that history, a familiar topic around here [Frances S. Sellers, Washington Post, earlier here, etc.]
  • Eighth Circuit: Nebraska regulators improperly retaliated against financial adviser over (inter alia) his criticism of Obama [Eugene Volokh]
  • Nine senators (Boxer, Durbin, Franken, Markey, Reid, Sanders, Schumer, Warren, Whitehouse): we demand 22 right-of-center think tanks open their donation records to us [Carolina Journal]
  • “Copyright infringer issues bogus DMCA over someone calling him out. Then denies all of it” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • Lawsuit demanding R ratings on films with “tobacco imagery” deserves to be hit with SLAPP sanctions; “suing the MPAA to force censorship raises the stakes.” [WSJ Law Blog, Scott Greenfield]