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Donald Wants to Restrict Your Freedom of Speech

2016-11-16

Our president-elect has promised to “open up our libel laws” so that he can sue newspapers (and private individuals) “and win lots of money.”  He has infamously been involved in over 4,000 lawsuits and has filed seven “libel” suits, all but one of which he has lost (the one suit he lost was by default when the private person’s lawyer didn’t show up for an arbitration hearing.)

The implications of Donald’s promises are chilling but his chances of changing libel law are slim.  Fortunately, libel is not a liberal-conservative dissension area, and the courts have been very clear about their opinions in this regard.  There is an article that details Donald’s failures in lawsuits over negative statements about him in the Media Law Resource Center, titled “Donald J. Trump is a Libel Bully but Also a Libel Loser

The article makes clear, following opinions by judges dismissing Donald’s lawsuits,

…opinions expressed in the form of “rhetorical hyperbole,” “rigorous epithets,” and “the most pejorative of terms” are protected from liability, so long as the opinions do not veer to into factual accusations, such as accusing someone of a crime, unethical conduct, or the lack of professional integrity in a manner that would be proved true or false.

Donald even filed a lawsuit against the comedian Bill Maher in California after Maher promised to donate $5 million to a charity of Donald’s choice if he would produce a birth certificate proving that he was not the offspring of an orangutan.  When Bill failed to donate the money after Donald produced a birth certificate, Donald’s lawyers sued.  They quickly withdrew their suit when they discovered that California has a law called an anti-SLAPP statute (SLAPP=Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) that awards lawyer’s fees to the defendant in any lawsuit that is determined to be intended to silence public criticism of malefactors:

It was obvious to media lawyers that Maher could seek a quick dismissal under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Hustler, which held that statements about a public figure reasonably understood to be a caricature, parody, or satire – a joke – are not actionable under any theory of liability claiming a falsehood.[66]

Maher also had a very good chance of winning an anti-SLAPP motion under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. Although Trump’s lawsuit against Maher was labeled a “breach of contract” lawsuit, Trump’s lawsuit targeted Maher’s speech about a matter of public concern – Maher’s critique of Trump’s “racist,” anti-Obama birther campaign while Trump explored a presidential bid [67] As it turns out, Trump’s birther campaign likely helped catapult Trump to the GOP presidential nomination three years later.

The California law (also passed in a few other states in different forms) gives relief against Donald’s tactic of suing people in order to cause them grief and great expense rather than to actually win.  This tactic, forcing people to hire lawyers to defend against groundless suits that have no chance of actually succeeding, is more dangerous in these cases than any legal risk because there is always a risk that, if you don’t appear in court to defend yourself, your opponent may win by default.

One of Donald’s victims discovered this when she was sued for declaring that the Miss Universe contest was rigged.  Her lawyer was incompetent and not licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction in which Donald brought arbitration claims against her.  The judge in the case, clearly biased in Donald’s favor, awarded him $5 million.  Fortunately, although she never paid any money, Donald’s lawyer declared the judgement satisfied.  This case is also detailed in the article cited above.

There is a risk, however small, that Donald will force changes in libel law or otherwise abridge our freedoms of speech because he appears not to understand our fundamental constitutional rights.  Nor does he comprehend, despite the experience of having brought numerous lawsuits, the details of our libel laws.  This is our greatest risk– that an ignoramus will destroy our basic rights because they don’t fit his narcissistic notions.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Robin Smollar permalink
    2016-11-16 12:29

    Thanks for sharing this.

    On Nov 16, 2016 3:10 PM, “Conrad Theodore Seitz” wrote:

    > conrad seitz posted: “Our president-elect has promised to “open up our > libel laws” so that he can sue newspapers (and private individuals) “and > win lots of money.” He has infamously been involved in over 4,000 lawsuits > and has filed seven “libel” suits, all but one of which h” >

    Like

    • 2016-11-16 16:27

      Thanks for reading. Sometimes I wonder if anybody reads this stuff, but then I realize somebody must. He hasn’t sued me yet.

      Like

  2. Robin Smollar permalink
    2017-08-31 13:43

    As I watched this video I just kept saying Wow, Wow, Wow!!!

    Like

  3. jwdevita permalink
    2017-09-03 05:02

    👍

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

    Like

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