Posts Tagged ‘libel slander and defamation’

Handwriting forensics group: tell people to “be wary” of us? See you in court!

Institute for Justice’s “Short Circuit“: “A member of the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners writes an article for an American Bar Association journal, in which he opines that judges should trust handwriting experts certified by the ABFDE and ‘be wary of other certifying bodies.’ Board of Forensic Document Examiners: Say what! We’re an ‘other certifying body,’ and that spurious article has defamed our esteemed members. Seventh Circuit: ‘[T]he appropriate avenue for expressing a contrary point of view was through a rebuttal article, not a defamation lawsuit.'” [Board of Forensic Document Examiners v. American Bar Association]

Pennsylvania special: muzzle a critic for about $300

“Pennsylvania offers the flimsiest of SLAPP protections, something [Joe] Schiavo discovered firsthand when he served as vice chair of the Old City Civic Association’s zoning committee.” The civic association often took a role in development controversies, and after facing repeated (though unsuccessful) lawsuits from developers and owners, was dropped by its insurance carrier and decided to disband. “‘For the cost of a filing fee, probably less than $300, they actually shut down the civic association,’ Schiavo said of the organization’s litigious opponents. (The fee for a non-jury trial complaint in Common Pleas Court is $333.)” Among others who’ve used Pennsylvania law to go after critics: prominent politicians. [David Gambacorta, Allentown Morning Call/Tribune News Service]

International free speech roundup

  • Singapore law restricting so-called fake news “could force companies to tell the government what websites users have viewed” [Jennifer Daskal, New York Times] Ruling People’s Action Party “is notorious for its practice of bringing lawsuits against opposition members,” sometimes “for defamation upon criticizing the PAP,” while blog authors are “often pressured to register as members of political bodies if their posts touch upon national issues.” [Sally Andrews, The Diplomat]
  • Australian federal police raid national broadcaster, seize files over story exposing alleged killings of unarmed civilians by special forces [Matthew Lesh, Spiked]
  • U.K.: “Man investigated by police for retweeting transgender limerick” [Camilla Tominey and Joani Walsh, Daily Telegraph; Jack Beresford, Irish Post; Ophelia Benson followup on “Harry the Owl” case; earlier here, here, etc.]
  • From President John Adams’s time to our own, rulers around the world have used alarms over fake news as excuse for measures against political opponents [J.D. Tuccille, Reason]
  • “In a world first, Facebook to give data on hate speech suspects to French courts” [Mathieu Rosemain, Reuters, Jacob Mchangama on Twitter]
  • Michael Jackson fan clubs sue sex-abuse complainants “under a French law against the public denunciation of a dead person,” good example of why laws like that are a bad idea [AP/GlobalNews]
  • Turkish “Academics for Peace” initiative of 2016: “Of the petition’s more than 2,000 signatories, nearly 700 were put on trial and over 450 were removed from their posts by government decree or direct action from their own university.” [Brennan Cusack, New York Times]

“Calgary-area mom served with cease and desist letter after going public with classroom concerns”

Alberta, Canada: “A Calgary-area mother who spoke out to CBC News over concerns about a large combined Grade 2 class at Red Deer Lake School has been handed a cease-and-desist letter by a law firm on behalf of the school board….Other parents have also received the letter and are not willing to be interviewed as a result.” [Jennifer Lee, CBC]

Free speech roundup

  • Turkish economist “Snatched at Night, Questioned for ‘Insulting’ Erdogan” [Asli Kandemir and Taylan Bilgic, Bloomberg News] “Croatian journalists stage protest against abusive lawsuits” [IFEX]
  • SCOTUS has made clear that First Amendment generally bans government from “retaliat[ing] against a contractor… for the exercise of rights of political association.” That should doom Los Angeles ordinance requiring contractors to disclose ties to National Rifle Association (NRA) [Eugene Volokh]
  • “How Regulation Cripples Online Political Speech” [Cato Daily Podcast with attorney Allen Dickerson with the Institute for Free Speech; related on unconstitutional Maryland law] License to chill: New Jersey bill would require disclosure of donors involved in “providing political information on any candidate or public question, legislation, or regulation” [Emily Kelchen, Federalist Society]
  • Alabama publicity rights law trips up documentary series with focus on deceased man [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • “Libel Case Can’t Be Litigated with the Alleged Libel Sealed, Says Federal Court” [Volokh]
  • “Why Is the Fight for Free Speech Led by the Psychologists?” [Scholar’s Stage] From last year, another review of Keith Whittington’s book on academia, Speak Freely [James Stoner; earlier here, here]

Eugene Volokh on anti-libel injunctions

Injunctions against committing libel are one of the important exceptions to the general principle that the government cannot restrain your speech ahead of time, as distinct from prescribing legal consequences that might apply to it afterward. Eugene Volokh is serializing at Volokh Conspiracy some of the main points of a new article he has published in the Penn Law Review that draws a close connection between anti-libel injunctions and another anomaly of speech regulation, criminal libel (which departs from the general modern rule that legal consequences for unjust harm to reputation are generally civil and compensatory). He writes:

An injunction against libel, which carries the threat of prosecution for criminal contempt, is like a miniature criminal libel law—just for a particular defendant, and just for statements about a particular plaintiff. That is its virtue. That is its danger. And that is the key to identifying how the First Amendment and equitable principles should constrain such injunctions.

Injunctions themselves can be divided between permanent injunctions entered after a civil trial on the merits has found earlier speech to be libelous, and preliminary injunctions entered before there exists such a record. The two types of remedy have different potential dangers. The criminal libel comparison makes clear some of the other problems that can arise with libel injunctions, which include overbreadth and the lack of an equivalent of prosecutorial discretion.

Devin Nunes, Don Blankenship sue critics

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is suing Twitter and several critics, including the anonymous proprietors of accounts styling themselves “Devin Nunes’s Mom” and “Devin Nunes’s Cow,” claiming defamation and other torts. Section 230, which protects Internet companies from liability for users’ postings, is likely to prove an obstacle to his claims against Twitter. [ABA Journal; Eugene Volokh, first (Section 230), second (“fighting words” doctrine inapplicable), and third (injunction that suspends entire Twitter account likely overbroad remedy) posts; Mike Godwin and Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason] More: Liz Mair (a defendant in suit), USA Today.

It’s worth emphasizing, in addition, that although the suit claims bias on Twitter’s part against political conservatives, were Nunes somehow to establish as a matter of law that the social media provider is obliged to intervene to remove harsh, unfair personal criticism of public figures, it would engage in much *more* removal of conservatives’ tweets and accounts than it does now.

Meanwhile, Don Blankenship, who lost a Republican Senate primary in West Virginia last year, is suing many media outlets and other organizations claiming defamation. Massey Energy, of which Blankenship had been CEO, “owned a mine where a 2010 explosion killed 29 miners. Blankenship spent a year in federal prison for violating safety regulations, which is a misdemeanor.” The suit says press outlets and critics erroneously described the candidate as a felon. [Anna Moore, WCHS]

Free speech roundup

  • We’ll pass the bill first, and let the courts tell us later whether it violates the First Amendment. That’s not how it’s supposed to work [my Free State Notes on a Maryland “cyberbullying” bill]
  • Local laws requiring government contractors to disclose/disclaim ties to the anti-Israel BDS movement have rightly come under criticism. Will that spill over to a constitutionally dubious new Los Angeles ordinance requiring contractors to disclose ties with an advocacy group devoted to a different issue, the NRA? [Eugene Volokh]
  • “Lust on Trial,” new book by Amy Werbel on celebrated vice crusader Anthony Comstock [Kurt Conklin with Alex Joseph, Hue (Fashion Institute of Technology, NYC); podcasts at FIRE with Nico Perrino and ABA Journal with Lee Rawles]
  • “The Rushdie affair became a template for global intellectual terrorism” from Paris and Copenhagen to Garland, Tex.; in a different way, it also foreshadowed the far pettier heresy hunts and sanctity trials of callout culture [Jonathan Rauch]
  • $250 million libel suits as a fantasy way to own the libs? In real life meanwhile big-ticket libel suits are used to silence conservatives [Competitive Enterprise Institute press release (leading media orgs including RCFP, SPJ, ASNE support rehearing of D.C. court ruling favorable toward Michael Mann defamation action), NR editors, Jack Fowler] “The media’s Covington coverage was appalling, but Nick Sandman’s libel lawsuit is not the answer” [Robby Soave, Irina Manta] Another part of the forest: Justice Clarence Thomas criticizes New York Times v. Sullivan [Will Baude, Cass Sunstein, Ramesh Ponnuru]
  • “A new documentary showcased by PBS presents Montana as a success story of campaign finance reform and Wisconsin’s John Doe investigations as a failure.” But “Dark Money” has some omissions [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Steve Klein of the Pillar of Law Institute]

Free speech roundup

Free speech roundup

  • Is ACLU changing its tune on free speech for the worse? [Wendy Kaminer, David Cole, Ira Glasser, Nadine Strossen] Symposium on Louis Michael Seidman essay, “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?” [First Amendment Watch, essay excerpt]
  • Series of posts and law review article by Eugene Volokh on how Founding-era public understanding of freedom of the press encompassed a much wider swath of activity than just commercial or professional press enterprise [Volokh Conspiracy]
  • “Perhaps it would be easier if [Councilman Justin] Brannan just issued a list of who is allowed to speak in his community.” [Karol Markowicz on Brooklyn pol who’s bragged of pressuring venues to cancel GOP and NRA events]
  • “Free Speech in International Perspective” symposium this month at Cato Unbound includes Jacob Mchangama, Anthony Leaker, Jeremy Waldron, Jonathan Rauch;
  • “An opinion, however moronic or unfair, is absolutely protected [absent special circumstances not present here]…. Though I celebrate an apology for wrongdoing, I can’t celebrate a surrender at swordpoint that encourages censorious litigation.” [Ken at Popehat on $3.375 million Southern Poverty Law Center settlement with Maajid Nawaz]
  • Why veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell changed his mind on Northern Ireland cake controversy [The Sun, BBC]