Posts Tagged ‘libel slander and defamation’

Switcheroo: newspaper publisher threatens to sue politician for libel

A Colorado state senator disparaged his hometown paper, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, as “fake news” (as well as “very liberal”). The publisher of the family-owned newspaper then responded with an editorial that struck a threatening tone: “see you in court.” [Corey Hutchins, Columbia Journalism Review]

More from Ken at Popehat to newspaper publisher: stop making things worse.

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]

“This fight could very well be the end of Techdirt, even if we are completely on the right side of the law.”

TechDirt, which has provided immensely valuable coverage of First Amendment issues as well as news from the worlds of technology and intellectual property, is being sued for defamation over its critical coverage of a man best known for his claims to a role in the invention of email. Lending urgency in some observers’ eyes is that the plaintiff is being represented by attorney Charles Harder, of Thiel-Hogan fame. Mike Masnick’s statement is here. More: Eugene Volokh, David Post.

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]

“Trump threatens to sue New York Times”

Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, following negative coverage including a story on his use of tax breaks in real estate development [The Hill]:

Vague lawsuit threats are usually the bumptious kind: there is no cause of action for “irresponsible intent.”

Louisiana sheriff raids home in hopes of exposing identity of critical blogger

“One week after Terrebonne Parish Sheriff Jerry Larpenter seized the computers and phones of a suspected online critic, angry residents came to the parish council to defend free speech rights and to question Parish President Gordon Dove for hiring an insurance agent who is at the heart of the controversy.” [David Hammer, WWL] Louisiana has a criminal libel law on the books and although its continued constitutionality is doubtful given a state supreme court ruling, it served as the basis for a judge to approve a search warrant for the raid on the home and electronic equipment of Houma police officer Wayne Anderson, suspected of being the pseudonymous author of the gadfly Esposedat blog, which has criticized Larpenter and other officials. “When Larpenter was asked whether there is a conflict in him investigating an alleged crime involving himself, he replied, ‘If you’re gonna lie about me and make it under a fictitious name, I’m gonna come after you.'” [WWL, first, second, third, fourth posts]

Court tosses Paul Brodeur suit over American Hustle microwave scene

Some Overlawyered readers may be familiar with the work of longtime New York writer Paul Brodeur, whose best known book was a critique of the asbestos industry and who went on to write books about what were in some cases less widely accepted public health risks, such as electrical transmission lines. Now an appeals court in California has dismissed a lawsuit Brodeur brought “over a scene in the 2013 film, American Hustle, where defending the notion that microwaves take the nutrition out of food, Jennifer Lawrence comments, ‘It’s not [B.S.]. I read it in an article. Look, by Paul Brodeur.'” Defendants portrayed the film as a “screwball comedy” which explicitly added fictional elements to the real-world ABSCAM scandal, and Lawrence’s character as one whose statements were portrayed as unreliable. The judge cited a number of other factors, including Brodeur’s legal status as a public figure and well-known commentator in the 1970s. [Hollywood Reporter]

Gawker Media files for bankruptcy

Faced with a $140 million verdict from a Florida jury over its publication of a sex tape including wrestler Hulk Hogan, Gawker Media has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy [CNN Money] Forbes profiles a boutique law firm that with Thiel’s help has made suing Gawker its “bread and butter.” Nick Lemann notes that the “uniquely legally privileged position of the American press” dates back to the period of New York Times v. Sullivan and some other pro-press decisions, and may be up for rethinking in public opinion “at a moment when the press is far more vulnerable, economically and culturally, than it used to be.” [New Yorker] My recent posts on Gawker, Peter Thiel, and paying others to sue are here, here, and here.