Alan Dershowitz just filed a whale of a lawsuit against CNN, though it could end up beached in short order under controlling case law. The Harvard Law professor emeritus is demanding $300,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from CNN for misrepresenting his legal arguments in the Trump impeachment trial. In fairness to Dershowitz, the coverage of the trial by CNN was dreadful with intentionally and consistently slanted coverage of the evidence, standards, and arguments. However, the objections raised by Dershowitz are likely to be treated as part of the peril for high-profile figures operating in the public domain. In other words, you can complain about the weather but you cannot sue the storm. Continue reading “Dershowitz Sues CNN For $300,000,000 In Defamation Action”
Thirty years after the late D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s famous statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that a Salon owner set her up in an embarrassing incident where Pelosi was shown not just violating San Francisco’s pandemic laws in getting her hair done but not wearing a mask while doing it. Pelosi refused to take responsibility for the violation (including the failure to wear a mask) and, in the tape below, only took responsibility to “failing for a set up.” She added “I think that this salon owes me an apology, for setting me up.” The Salon owner, Erica Kious, has stated that she expects to close eSalon after receiving a torrent of death threats and hostile massages after Pelosi’s allegation. The question is whether she could actually sue for defamation. Continue reading “Set Up or Slander: Did Pelosi Defame A Salon Owner?”
Sarah Palin is about to get all mavericky in court. Indeed, the former Alaskan governor and vice presidential candidate just might be making new law in the area of defamation. Palin’s won a major victory in a decision by Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who ruled that she could go to trial o a particularly outrageous editorial by The New York Times In June 2017. The editorial suggested that she inspired or incited Jared Loughner’s 2011 shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. The case also involves a curious twist due to the involvement of James Bennet, who resigned in the recent controversy over an editorial by Sen. Tom Cotton. I supported Bennet’s decision to publish that editorial and denounced the cringing apology of the Times after a backlash.
New documents in the George Floyd investigation have been released and it is likely that they will be key to the criminal defense of the accused officers in that case. The documents contain accounts of extremely high levels of fentanyl in Floyd’s blood that could have contributed to his death. The documents are likely to feature significantly in the criminal defense of former officers Tou Thao, Derek Chauvin, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. While admissibility can be challenged, they reflect findings that will be raised at trial on the impact of these drugs in Floyd’s system. However, the documents in my view do not conclusively establish that the drug use was the cause of the death. Indeed, some reaffirm the view of prosecutors. I do not believe that these documents should not be treated as determinative evidence by the court in pre-trial motions. In other words, this should go to a jury.
The media coverage of the scandal involving Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. has been overwhelming. That is to be expected. An evangelical figure leaves his post at a religious university after a photo with his pants unzipped on a yacht owned by a Nascar mogul who received lucrative deals with the university. Then came the allegations of Giancarlo Granda that he had a long time sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife Becki and Rev. Falwell liked to watch the sexual trysts. Falwell has alleged that Granda was extorting money. Michael Cohen, the thuggish former counsel for President Donald Trump, is even involved. In this tsunami of coverage, the interesting element is the one that is missing: no one has threatened a defamation action. Such a lawsuit could raise some interesting issues under the common law. Continue reading “The Falwell Fiasco and the Curious Absence of a Defamation Lawsuit”
We previously discussed the attack on a Wisconsin state senator who simply tried take pictures of rioters destroying statues and causing property damage in Madison on June 23rd. Democratic state Sen. Tim Carpenter was hospitalized after the attack. Now, two women, Samantha R. Hamer, 26, (right) and Kerida E. O’Reilly, 33, (left) have been arrested in the attack. What is interesting is that the punitive measures are not just criminal charges against the women. Hamer is particularly likely to suffer immediate employment consequences as a teacher. She is a specialist in helping kids with “social-emotional needs” and “behavioral issues.”
Like many, I have criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi for calling federal officers in places like Portland “stormtroopers.” It is highly offensive on a myriad of different levels and serves to fuel attacks on federal officers who have suffered significant levels of injuries in the rioting. However, the recent statement from Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, on the possibility of libel lawsuits is unsustainable under current tort law.
The Washington Post settled a lawsuit filed by the family of a teenager Nicholas Sandmann who was falsely labeled a racist who aggressively attacked an elderly Native American activist during a visit to the Lincoln Memorial with his high school class. The false account of the incident was widely circulated in the media. He was attacked on networks like MSNBC and CNN as well as in newspapers like the Post. He sued the Washington Post for $250 million but the settlement terms were not disclosed.
MSNBC’s Joy Reid has two notable developments this week. She was named as the new nightly anchor to replace Chris Matthews and was lost a major appeal in a defamation lawsuit tied to her prior position. Reid has a history of controversial statement including her insistence that her posts on her blog with homophobic comments were fabricated by hackers. She later apologized for the postings that she claimed that she made. She acknowledged “I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me.” She was sued in one of the most notorious postings on social media by Roslyn La Liberte, a Trump supporter, who was trashed by Reid for comments that she never made and an account that proved to be untrue. Reid relied on California’s Anti-Slapp statute and immunity arguments to try to force La Liberte out of court, even though she again later apologized. Now the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has handed down a major ruling against Reid that could undermine future defenses by media figures. Continue reading “Joy Reid Loses To La Liberte: MSNBC Host Creates New Precedent Binding Media”
A New York City education council meeting recent attracted national attention after one member of the council (and its past President), Robin Broshi, accused another member, Thomas Wrocklage, of racism after he was seen in a zoom meeting bouncing a black child on his lap. The video below is rather breathtaking but the incident has led to countervailing claims of racism and slander. As is often the case, we tend to jump on any novel torts claims and this is a good example of the tension between opinion and slander, particularly in such overheated (indeed radioactive) moments in public debates. It is unfortunately an increasingly common legal question in today’s rage-filled politics. The video of his meeting has now been shown throughout the world. However, it has some interesting elements as a pedagogical tool for understanding the underlying applicability of tort liability, or lack thereof.
In a Fox interview last night, the stepmother of ex-Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe raised what clearly sounds like a claim of defamation against her former employer Equity Prime Mortgage in Atlanta. Melissa Rolfe says that she was fired after her step son was charged with the murder of Rayshard Brooks. Her firing has been in the news, but the legal standing of Rolfe seemed questionable to challenge the termination. She appears to be an “at will” employee who can ordinarily be fired, as it is often said, for “good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all” (absent the violation of a statutory or constitutional protection). However, it appears that she may be contemplating a lawsuit based not on the termination by Equity Prime Mortgage but how the company explained the termination after it was criticized for allegedly firing Rolfe simply because of her son. That could present an interesting defamation action and a cautionary tale for companies in dealing with such high-profile matters.
NPR is being hammered this week for its reporting on right-wing extremists attacking peaceful protesters. The news organization previously showed images of a female motorist who struck a protester on Wednesday as an example of “Right-wing extremists are turning cars into weapons.” Despite the video released quickly by the police (and the fact that police found she was fleeing a protester with a gun and did not charge her), the woman was described as part of a pattern of protesters being innocently mowed down. These cases often raise difficult legal questions in torts on issues of defamation and false light (combining two of the favorite subjects of this blog: media and torts).