A picture has been circulating on the Internet among Democratic and liberal posters that purportedly showed Republicans praying at a gold-colored statue of former President Donald Trump at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC). The statue was mocked by critics as “the Golden Calf.” Figures like Joel Stein, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times, proclaimed that “the fall of Rome was this embarrassing.” Former Democratic congressional candidate Adam Christensen circulated the photo as did others with similar mocking notations. Another poster Mo Bella wrote Caption “this photo taken today of CPAC’s evangelical leaders. Yes, they are praying to a golden statue of their holy insurrectionist.” The problem is that the photo was fake. The question is whether those depicted could sue for false light in such a depiction.
I have taught medical malpractice as part of my torts course for decades but I have never seen anything quite like this. Dr. Scott Green is accused of appearing in Sacramental Superior Court for a trial of a traffic violation during a surgery. While Green was willing to continue, the court was not. He will now have to appear before the Medical Board of California, presumably not in scrubs and in mid surgery. While we have discussed past cases like a doctor hip-hopping on videos around patients, this is the first doctor appearing as a surgeon and a litigant at the same time.
The $435 million defamation lawsuit brought against CNN by Devin Nunes (R., CA), has been dismissed but not on a determination of truth or the merits. The decision was based on a technical or procedural omission by Nunes, but the jurisdictional question was an impressive combination of standards in three different jurisdictions. United States District Judge Laura Taylor Swain issued a ruling in New York to apply Virginia’s choice of law standard that in turn applied California’s defamation laws. It was a cascading deconstruction of the lawsuit. Nunes ultimately lost due to a failure to demand a retraction with 20 days and then a failure to properly plead special damages in light of that jurisdictional finding.
This weekend, we discussed the public threats by the Lincoln Project of a defamation action against Rudy Giuliani. The Project itself has faced questions of defaming the members of the Trump family. The Project has been accused of doxxing and trolling Republicans and waging a campaign of harassment targeting election lawyers after Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election. In the Giuliani controversy, co-founder Steve Schmidt said that he was “thrilled” by Giuliani’s interview and appeared to relish the possibility of a defamation action. Within 48 hours, the Project was involved in yet another possible defamation controversy after it publicly declared that its own co-founder, John Weaver, is “a predator, a liar, and an abuser.” Continue reading ““A Predator, A Liar, And An Abuser”: The Lincoln Project Attacks Co-Founder in Latest Defamation Controversy”
As someone who has taught defamation torts for thirty years, the Trump Administration has been a bonanza of such cases and controversies. While many claims of defamation have been resulted in filings, we have had a number of high profile political controversies turn into actual tort litigation. I regularly criticized Donald Trump for his calls to change defamation laws. On the opposing side, figures like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough raised equally poor understandings of defamation law in considering lawsuits against Trump. However, not surprisingly in our age of rage, there has been a slew of defamation claims raised from leading lawyers to universities to academics to police officers to the Dominion company to Sarah Palin to Jerry Falwell Jr. to Roy Moore to Joy Reid . . . well, you get the idea.
What is striking is that some of the most reckless figures or groups are often the first to raise such claims, including Trump himself. The Lincoln Project is the latest example. The group participated a disgraceful campaign of intimidation against lawyers and law firms that began soon after the election, including alleged efforts to dox or troll people with opposing views. This includes work that was previously discussed as potentially defamatory. It is now saying that it has a strong case against Rudy Giuliani who himself seems a perpetual defamation machine. The claim arose after Giuliani held a signature interview with unhinged and unsupported allegations, including that someone associated with The Lincoln Project helped orchestrate the recent riot on Capitol Hill. While the Project says that this is an open and shut case, there are serious impediments facing such a lawsuit and it is not, in my view, sure thing under controlling case law.
On January 7th, an attorney representing President Donald Trump filed a one-page motion of withdrawal from a case filed shortly after the election. That is hardly remarkable with attorneys entering and leaving cases every day in federal court. What is remarkable is the reason. Philadelphia-based attorney Jerome Marcus told the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania that he was withdrawing because President Trump used him, and his election challenge, to “perpetuate a crime.” The filing raises some troubling questions regarding the alleged criminal conduct as well as the necessity of making such an allegation in a simple motion to withdraw from representation.
We have been discussing curious Covid-related offenses this year, but a Wisconsin controversy raises a particularly challenging such question. Advocate Aurora Health has admitted that an employee intentionally removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration. The intentional act, originally claimed to be accidental, resulted in the destruction of 500 doses of the potentially life-saying vaccine. Advocate Aurora Health said the employee was fired. However, an intentional destruction of the doses would seem the ultimate product tampering case: either compromised vaccines would be given patients or 500 people will have to wait longer for the protection from Covid-19.
’Tis the season for the Christmas tort. For lawyers, Christmas remains a horn-of-plenty for the practice of law. Indeed, mayhem and madness have been part of Christmas since its very founding. Thus, each year we gather for the posting of the annual list of Christmas torts and crimes. Fortunately, the holiday is much more than the entries on the criminal or civil dockets. However, these cases remind us all that, even when chaos lurks around holiday gatherings, we somehow survive and return year in and year out. So Happy Holidays to everyone. Continue reading “Christmas Torts: The 2020 Listing Of Holiday Mishaps and Madness”
In 2019, former Rep. Katie Hill resigned from Congress after the disclosure of sexual relations with a staff member. Ordinarily, the media and various public interest groups would have been outraged and unrelenting in their “MeToo” coverage, particularly with a young staffer recently out of college. In the case of Hill, however ,media outlets like MSNBC picked up on Hill’s claim that she was subjected to a “double standard” and a “misogynistic culture.” It was the ultimate form of ironic hypocrisy where a politician claimed a double standard in being forced to resign — seeking an accommodation that was wisely denied to male colleagues in past scandals. Various male politicians from Sen. Bob Packwood to Rep. Trent Franks have resigned under such scandals. Sen. Al Franken resigned for acts that did not involve an actual sexual affair. Hill abused her position of power but somehow converted that abuse into a women’s rights issue. Hill sold that narrative and is now bizarrely treated by many as a victim. Now, Hill is suing over the coverage of her scandal in a lawsuit that challenges core protections for the media. Continue reading “Former Rep. Hill Files Lawsuit Against Former Husband And Media Over Public Disclosures”
In celebration of Thanksgiving, I give you our annual Turkey Torts of civil and criminal cases that add liability to libations on this special day (with past cases at the bottom). Many criminal defense attorneys and torts attorneys give special thanks for a holiday that can involve copious amounts of alcohol, strained family relations, over-the-hill amateur football players, “Black Friday” sale stampedes, and novice cooks. These cases are why Johnny Carson said “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”
Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday.
The press conference held by the Trump legal team was not for the faint of heart. The team alleged a global, Communist-backed conspiracy to “inject” and “change” votes through the use of the Dominion computer system. It was exhausting and breathtaking. I was critical of the press conference as being long on heated rhetoric and short on hard evidence. Dominion issued a statement categorically denying the allegations. The question is whether Dominion itself will now sue. The company denied the allegations but I often measure such denials by whether anyone actually sues. Dominion could do so and force the Trump team to reveal the evidence supporting their allegations or face potentially significant liability. These are not just colorful but criminal allegations against named companies and by implication corporate officials and political allies.
Here is my annual list of Halloween torts and crimes. Halloween of course remains a holiday seemingly designed for personal injury lawyers around the world and this year’s additions show why. Halloween has everything for a torts-filled holiday: battery, trespass, defamation, nuisance, product liability and more. This year, one potential danger has been eliminated in Japan where the Japanese mob has been banned from handing out candy. However, there are still some notable additions.
In this election, the Lincoln Project has been arguably the most prolific anti-Trump organization in running scathing and often personal attacks on Trump, his family, and his associates. The ads have ranged from the genuinely funny to the shockingly vicious. Now however, the Project may have added openly defamatory. The Project has erected a pair of billboards in Times Square that slam Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as callous and mocking figures in the fast of the rising death toll from Covid-19. The Project has received a letter of intent to sue from the family’s lawyer and, while these actions by public official or public figures are extremely difficult to maintain, the claim could have merit. I have updated the column below to add the statement from the Lincoln Project.
Police in Michigan are looking for the person responsible for a booby-trapped Trump-Pence sign that cut a worker who was removing it because it was too close to the road. The worker required 13 stitches. In torts, we cover a long line of cases involving “snare guns” and “man traps” going back centuries. This case presents an ironic twist under that precedent. Continue reading “A Sign of Our Times: Police Search For Culprit In Booby Trapped Trump Sign”
Two Temple University students were hospitalized after falling four stories while they were allegedly trying to take a selfie at a rooftop party. The students were at a party around 2 a.m. on Saturday when they fell from the rooftop and landed in an alley. The management company insisted that there is an ample barrier, but the case could raise some challenging questions in a tort action for both sides.