Court ruled that bloggers have First Amendment protection when sued for defamation
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Friday that bloggers and the public have the same First Amendment protections as journalists when sued for defamation: If the issue is of public concern, plaintiffs have to prove negligence to win damages.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a defamation lawsuit brought by an Oregon bankruptcy trustee against a Montana blogger who wrote online that the court-appointed trustee criminally mishandled a bankruptcy case.
The appeals court ruled that the trustee was not a public figure, which could have invoked an even higher standard of showing the writer acted with malice, but the issue was of public concern, so the negligence standard applied.
Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press said the ruling affirms what many have long argued: Standards set by a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc., apply to everyone, not just journalists.
“It’s not a special right to the news media,” he said. “So it’s a good thing for bloggers and citizen journalists and others.”
Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., now living in Port Townshend, Wash., was sued for defamation by Bend attorney Kevin Padrick and his company, Obsidian Finance Group LLC, after she made posts on several websites she created accusing them of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and other illegal activities. The appeals court noted Padrick and Obsidian were hired by Summit Accommodators to advise them before filing for bankruptcy, and that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court later appointed Padrick trustee in the Chapter 11 case. The court added that Summit had defrauded investors in its real estate operations through a Ponzi scheme.
A jury in 2011 had awarded Padrick and Obsidian $2.5 million.
“Because Cox’s blog post addressed a matter of public concern, even assuming that Gertz is limited to such speech, the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find Cox liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently,” judge Andrew D. Hurwitz wrote. “We hold that liability for a defamatory blog post involving a matter of public concern cannot be imposed without proof of fault and actual damages.”
The appeals court upheld rulings by the District Court that other posts by Cox were constitutionally protected opinion.
Though Cox acted as her own attorney, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who had written an article on the issue, learned of her case and offered to represent her in an appeal. Volokh said such cases usually end up settled without trial, and it was rare for one to reach the federal appeals court level.
“It makes clear that bloggers have the same First Amendment rights as professional journalists,” he said. “There had been similar precedents before concerning advocacy groups, other writers and book authors. This follows a fairly well established chain of precedents. I believe it is the first federal appeals court level ruling that applies to bloggers.”
An attorney for Padrick said in an email that while they were disappointed in the ruling, they noted the court found “there was no dispute that the statements were false and defamatory.”
“Ms. Cox’s false and defamatory statements have caused substantial damage to our clients, and we are evaluating our options with respect to the court’s decision,” wrote Steven M. Wilker.
Now if we can only get the Illinois ARDC to find that attorney bloggers have the same rights to the First Amendment especially when discussing corruption in the courts, there will be finally a win for the State of Illinois.
Jerome Larkin, head of the ARDC does not want that though. He refused to have the ARDC managing staff and lawyer publish their Ethics Reports under the Illinois Ethics Reporting Act of 2009. He ran a kangaroo court for myself and Kenneth Ditkowsky when all we did was write hundreds of faxes, letters and blog posts to protest the fact that the Mary G Sykes case was wired, the Judges admitted it in various ways, Judge Stuart lied at my trial when at first she sad she never chained poor Gloria Sykes, the Protective younger daughter, and threaten her pets with euthanization. Eventually, as warned by this blog on May 23, 2015, Mary Sykes, age 95 was narcotized to death and her body has not been tox screened or autopsied, but the Cook County Coroner should do it ASAP.
We now have a list of 30 probate cases across the nation where seniors were subject to “target, isolate, drain the estate, narcotize to eliminate and then creamate (to destroy the witness and evidence”.
Jerome Larking and his staff of ARDC attorneys–Sharon Opryszek, Melissa Smart and Leah Guiterrez Black have all covered up the Mary G. Sykes case and others where seniors have been fleeced and narcotized to death.
Recently Morris Eformes and Son Phillip were indicted for $1 billion in Medicare/Medicaid and state health care fund fraud in Florida.
Jerome Larkin protected Illinois Atty Seth Gillman for TWO YEARS, while he prosecuted myself and Ken Ditkowsky for speaking out against this massive network of health care fraud and probate court fraud in Illinois.
Illinois citizens are demanding better government. We want people who engage in these crimes and cover ups to either be indicted or tested immediately for psychopathy with a PET brain scan and removed and delicensed.
It is psychopaths like these that destroy the very fabric and fiber of civilization leaving Illinois and Chicago and unsafe environment for disableds and senior citizens.
see case decision here: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2014/01/17/12-35238.pdf