In Kentucky, Kenton Circuit Court Judge Martin Sheehan has put an end to a relatively rare case of a lawyer suing a prosecutor for defamation. The lawsuit by lawyer (and radio personality) Eric Deters against Kenton Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders was thrown out on the basis that comments made about Deters were merely opinion.
Sanders used Twitter and Facebook to attack Deters. According to reports, he also sued County Attorney Garry Edmondson.
Part of the defamation involves Sanders’ statement that an $11 million libel judgment by Deters may be thrown out because he may have served the wrong website. Sanders wrote: “Ooops … so much for that $11M. I actually feel sorry for this cheerleader. No one should be treated that way. I know how it feels to be libeled by anonymous bloggers. Been There. But she should have hired a reputable attorney!”
As reported by the ABA Journal and other news organizations, Deters secured the impressive judgment in representing a schoolteacher who allegedly was falsely accused online of both an affair with a football player and having two venereal diseases. However, Hooman Karamian, known as Nik Richie, is the owner of www.thedirty.com — the site directly responsible and he has stated that neither he nor his company were served.
It is hard to see how such an observation would be defamation and that was the view of Judge Sheehan: “Sanders’ comments were simply expressions of his opinion. It matters not if such opinion was wrong, uninformed or pernicious. His comments were, and are, constitutionally protected.”
Deters has indicated that he will not appeal and promised “I’m going to ignore my enemies. This includes Rob Sanders. My life is good.” For this part, Sanders insists that he would not have made the comments if he knew Deters would read them. “I didn’t know Mr. Deters follows my Twitter or Facebook. If I had, I wouldn’t have said anything to hurt his feelings.” That is a rather dubious rationale. If you are going to write things about someone, you should do so with the understanding that you would say the same things directly to them. However, Sanders insists “I made the mistake of acknowledging Eric Deters existence. I won’t make the same mistake again.”
A happy legal ending.