"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Law School 

Defamation is defined as a communication that "tends to harm the reputation of another so as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 559 (1977). In that light, consider this comment by noted ratbastard Tom DeLay about Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos:
Mr. [Richard] Morrison[, Democratic candidate for DeLay's seat in Congress,] also has taken money and is working with the Daily Kos, which is an organization that raises money for fighters against the U.S. in Iraq.

Okay, class, is DeLay liable for defamation?

Mr. Hastert? Well, yes, arguably, Markos Moulitsas is a "public figure," as defined by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Since you have obviously been reading ahead, you know that a "public figure" can bring a successful action for defamation only if the plaintiff can demonstrate "actual malice" - that is, knowledge that the statement is false or, in the alternative, reckless disregard of whether the statement is false or not. Do you think that the plaintiff in this case will have any difficulty showing "actual malice?" Neither do I. Any other thoughts?

Yes, Ms. Harris? Well, truth is an absolute defense, but I think you should review the facts of the hypothetical.

Mr. Rohrabacher? Damages - thanks for bringing that up! Has anyone here studied the issue of general damages in cases of libel per se? No? You should - it will be on the exam.

The correct answer, I think, is that Mr. DeLay is in some seriously deep water here. Tomorrow, let's try this again - and I want to see some preparation this time!

 

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