The disgraced cyclist, like quite a few celebrities (and non-celebrities), had filed defamation actions against persons over statements he had good reason to know were true. That’s not just a violation of his adversaries’ rights, but an inherently sanctionable use of the courts [Michael McCann/Sports Illustrated via Turkewitz; Emily Bazelon/Slate ("Armstrong 'sued so many people that by his own admission he can’t remember their names'")]
So is that prior restraint? [Washington Post on Virginia case, background; Brian Wolfman and Paul Alan Levy, Public Citizen] More: Ken at Popehat.
“Is It Libel to Say Someone Was Arrested When the Arrest Record Has Been Erased?” Last year the New Jersey Supreme Court said no in a case raising the same issue as to convictions, saying the law’s expungement provision
is not intended to create an Orwellian scheme whereby previously public information — long maintained in official records — now becomes beyond the reach of public discourse on penalty of a defamation action. Although our expungement statute generally permits a person whose record has been expunged to misrepresent his past, it does not alter the metaphysical truth of his past, nor does it impose a regime of silence on those who know the truth.
Now, however, a lawsuit filed in Connecticut seeks to assert similar liability as to mention of an erased arrest record. The state erasure statute provides that the person whose record is erased “shall be deemed to have never been arrested within the meaning of the general statutes with respect to the proceedings so erased and may so swear under oath.” Eugene Volokh finds the theory of liability constitutionally defective:
the First Amendment protects other people’s rights to talk about arrests that had — as a matter of historical fact — actually happened. A statute can’t rewrite history, and force others to pretend that something didn’t happen when in fact it did happen.
(& Above the Law)
A judge has dismissed another of the wave of lawsuits charging that law schools concealed evidence that placement rates, employment prospects and other relevant statistics were bleak for many graduates. The most recently dismissed case was against Chicago’s DePaul; earlier, judges threw out cases against Thomas Cooley, in Michigan, and New York Law School. [Caron, TaxProf; ABA Journal on Cooley] On the other hand, a California court will allow fraud suits to proceed against the University of San Francisco and Golden Gate law schools [Caron]
Meanwhile, critics have been sniping over some funny numbers at Rutgers-Camden [Paul Campos, Law School Scam; and more on an unrelated controversy in which an assistant law dean is hinting at legal action following unfavorable press coverage of her combined role as compliance officer and spouse for a New Jersey member of Congress]
From the New York Times obituary:
She was believable as well as hilarious when she talked about her husband, Fang; her mother-in-law, Moby Dick; and her sister-in-law, Captain Bligh. She was so believable that shortly after she divorced Sherwood Diller in 1965, his mother and sister sued her for defamation of character in an effort to keep her from talking about them in her act. She insisted that she was talking about a fictional family, not them, and eventually settled out of court.
Compare the lawsuit against comedian Sunda Croonquist, thrown out by a judge in 2010. And the London borough of Barnet is not exactly in the Diller spirit.
You really do need to be careful what you say about the casino magnate and political donor. Why? Among those in a position to explain (earlier coverage) is Las Vegas newspaper columnist John Smith, who wrote about Adelson in a book, was sued, and after years of litigation managed to get a judge to dismiss the action, though not before declaring bankruptcy. Alison Frankel has details of that and other Adelson legal adventures [Reuters]
“The [Spokane, Wash.] Spokesman-Review must provide information that could identify an anonymous reader who typed a disparaging online comment about the chairwoman of the Kootenai County Republican Party in February, an Idaho judge ruled Tuesday.” [Spokesman-Review] More: Citizen Media Law.
There are a great many reasons to be grateful that the United States declared its independence on this date in 1776, but one reason is that we, unlike Great Britain, managed soon thereafter to secure a First Amendment in our Constitution to protect the freedom of speech. That means we, unlike Lincolnshire pensioner John Richards, are unlikely to be threatened with arrest should we choose to put up a small sign in our window promoting atheism, on the grounds that it might cause distress to passersby [Boston Standard via Popehat] Relatedly, we need not worry that NYU law prof Jeremy Waldron, advocate of “hate speech” bans, will see his views enacted into U.S. policy anytime soon [Erica Goldberg, ConcurOp], despite repeated signals from places like Harvard Law School and the New York Times that he is a Very Serious Person whose views we need to engage.
And while not all the differences between British libel law and ours can be traced to our First Amendment, we are also fortunate that it is a fair bit harder for public figures and organizations here to use defamation charges to ruin critics and authors [Guardian; novelist Amanda Craig, Telegraph] We have likewise been spared the activities of any exact equivalent of Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority, recently reported as banning a “fathers’ rights” ad [BoingBoing]. And so forth.
Enjoy the Fourth, and our freedoms.
The Texas Supreme Court has sent back for further adjudication a controversy in which two newspapers had failed to win a summary judgment motion in a libel case filed against them. It took judicial notice that the trial judge in the case had taken a plea bargain on racketeering charges that included having accepted a $8,000 bribe to rule against the newspapers on the motion [ABA Journal]
Popehat’s Ken and Ron Littlepage of the Florida Times-Union on Angela Corey, the evidently thin-skinned Florida special prosecutor in the Martin-Zimmerman case. A letter Corey sent to the Florida Times-Union, in Ken’s view, “betrays anger management issues, entitlement problems, a weak grasp of pertinent First Amendment law governing statements of opinion, and a rather frightening attitude from a government official with such power.” Earlier here and here.
If Alan Dershowitz’s accusations are to be believed, the Florida prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case behaved in grossly unprofessional fashion. [Jacksonville.com "The Gavel," more, Jeralyn Merritt/TalkLeft]
World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon is again running for a Connecticut seat in the U.S. Senate, two years after she won the Republican nomination for the state’s other Senate seat but then lost badly to Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Chris Powell of the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, a prominent commentator on Connecticut politics, expressed scathing opinions on the type of entertainment purveyed by WWE under McMahon’s leadership, deeming it a “business of violence, pornography, and general raunch.” On Friday a WWE vice president, in a letter sent to news media throughout the state, “threatened the Journal Inquirer with a libel lawsuit.” In response, the newspaper contends that “The programs were issues in the Senate election two years ago and, by distributing its libel lawsuit threat throughout Connecticut’s news media, the McMahon campaign aims to prevent them from being mentioned this year.” [via Jared Eberle](& Rick Green, Hartford Courant)