Posts Tagged ‘libel slander and defamation’

Trump campaign files round of defamation suits

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?

Sandy Hook survivor: don’t repeat the contentions I sued over

After a pair of authors maintained in a book that the Sandy Hook school shooting was an elaborate hoax, the father of one of the victims sued them, and last summer his suit prevailed in a Wisconsin court, winning an injunction and damages. The father then proceeded to submit requests to Google seeking to deindex material posted by others critical of the Wisconsin judgment and taking the side of the defendant authors. Google did not comply, perhaps because of the principle that injunctions in defamation cases bind only the parties, not others who may circulate similar or related claims.

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, a leading expert on the First Amendment and defamation law, wrote a blog post in November discussing the takedown requests, after which things got really interesting: the Sandy Hook father sent Google a notice demanding takedown of Volokh’s post, which had simply reported on the controversy without taking defendants’ side. “Failure to do so will leave no alternative but to seek legal redress and remedies in the appropriate court of law. PLEASE BE GOVERNED ACCORDINGLY.” Volokh then corresponded with the man, who advanced two arguments. The first is that “You are repeating the defamatory statements,” which is something the law protects the right to do in the context of truthful reporting on statements made in the course of a judicial proceeding. (That is why the press feels itself at liberty to report on legal cases.) Second, the man complained that the original defendant was “using you as a third party to do which he cannot do himself.” Volokh’s response was that he was writing about the case on his own behalf, not the defendant’s, as the First Amendment entitles him to do.

Bumptious threats seeking to silence First Amendment specialists seldom achieve the results intended.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Lawrence Lessig file defamation suits

“Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against Hillary Clinton seeking $50 million in damages, claiming the former Democratic presidential nominee ‘carelessly and recklessly impugned’ her reputation when she suggested in October that one of the 2020 Democratic candidates is ‘the favorite of the Russians.'” [Erik Ortiz, NBC News; Jonathan Adler (“quite skeptical” as to “whether the suit gets anywhere on the merits”); Christian Britschgi, Reason; text of complaint; Popehat]

Harvard law professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination but withdrew before the primaries, “has filed a defamation lawsuit against the NY Times, its executive Editor Dean Baquet, its Business Editor Ellen Pollock, and reporter Nellie Bowles. Lessig is upset about the way some blog posts he made were portrayed by the NY Times…. saying this is his attack on what he calls ‘clickbait defamation.'” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]

Libel, slander, and defamation roundup

  • Texas trims back its SLAPP law after complaints it was being used in circumstances far from original design [John G. Browning, D Magazine] Howard Wasserman on John Oliver on SLAPP suits [Prawfsblawg]
  • In the U.S., sovereign governments can’t sue for libel. Does that include Indian tribes? [TMZ, Eugene Volokh]
  • “Your Periodic Reminder that Blogging About Litigation Can Generate More Litigation” [Eric Goldman]
  • Virginia emerges as libel tourism destination in high-profile cases [Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post; Paul Alan Levy, Public Citizen on Devin Nunes action, earlier]
  • “Virginia Legislator Joe Morrissey Gets Called “Fool,” Sues, Arguing He’s Not a Fool” [Eugene Volokh] “Retired Law Professor Sues Lawyer-Commenters on Law Blog” [same]
  • “Kansas senate leader ordered to pay nearly $39,000 in legal fees to The Kansas City Star after a judge dismissed his defamation lawsuit” [Katie Bernard, Kansas City Star]

Win, but still lose, in defamation law

In May of last year a judge dismissed a former police officer’s defamation suit against the Carroll Times Herald, published in the small town of Carroll, Iowa. “Even though the newspaper handily won the case, the legal expenses have left the family-owned local newspaper in financial peril.” [Meagan Flynn, Washington Post/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]

Libel and defamation roundup

  • Though ruled unconstitutional a half century ago, Louisiana’s criminal defamation law has remained on the books and could still cause you grief, especially if a sheriff’s office thinks you’ve defamed it [Sara Pagones and Katie Moore, NOLA.com]
  • Certiorari petition filed asking Supreme Court to stop climatologist Michael Mann’s lawsuit against National Review [NR, earlier]
  • Latest sassy response to a cease-and-desist demand (language) [Mike Masnick, TechDirt; “Diamond and Silk” versus Wonkette] Person “threatens to sue the Guinness World Record folks for removing his records” [same]
  • Also Techdirt-related: “Defamation lawsuit brought by self-proclaimed email ‘inventor’ settles” [Cyrus Farivar, NBC, related]
  • New Hampshire high court: inventor and company weren’t defamed by being called patent troll [ABA Journal, earlier here and here] Lawsuit alleging adult defamation of a seventh grader results in liability but no damages [Eugene Volokh; Massachusetts Superior Court]
  • Council in Peachtree City, Ga. considers proposal to pay legal bills of city workers and officials who sue critics for defamation [George Franco, Fox 5 Atlanta]

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]