Some people get behind a computer and they just feel they can go off without being checked. I hate to be this crude but the best description is a case of “diarrhea of the mouth.” Gone are those days were bloggers and non-bloggers could say anything and not have legal repercussions where it damages the reputation of another and also causes loss of jobs etc. Now, such persons are made accountable for what they say. I think this is a great thing. Although I also think that those doing the “checking” also have to be “checked” every now and then to be sure they are not abusing their power or trying to stifle speech.
Lawsuits should not be used to threaten and stifle the freedom of expression or bully people out of jobs because you disagree with their point of views etc.
We all know the Shirley Sherrod case. I gave an extensive analysis on this case a while back here.
What’s the update on the ongoing litigation?
Here is where we talk about the case and the legal strategy being used.
Assume you are a Plaintiff like Shirley Sherrod. You file a suit. The defendant is Blogger Andrew Brietbart. The defendant receives your complaint. First he answers your complaint by denying all of the things you say through an “Answer.” After the defendant does so, the next thing is to determine how to get rid of the case before the investigatory process really begins. One such tool commonly used to get rid of the case, is to file a “motion to dismiss.”
You essentially argue that a case lacks merit and state the grounds on which the case should be dismissed. Brietbart tried this. The Judge essentially said, “I am totally not buying it.” The case moves forward and we continue to have a litigation on our hands.
If you are Shirley Sherrod, you are saying, “Andrew Breitbart, you started this fight and by golly you will finish it,” after she takes him to the legal cleaners through the litigation process. So, round 1, Sherrod wins. Let’s see what happens as the case progresses.
Obviously, Sherrod remains angry and quite upset because he really did hurt her, badly based on reported facts, video clips etc in the public domain.
On Andrew’s part, you would be surprise what an apology can do. This is where my PR/Media hat comes in. Going back to motive, why do people do what they do? Pain, anger, humiliation drives this lawsuit independent of the legitimate damages suffered by Shirley Sherrod. Anyone in Sherrod’s position would do this. However, what sense does it make for Breitbart to try to defend this particular suit? Yes, of course we have constitutional protections i.e. Freedom of Speech/First Amendment protections etc. But we do know that the reported facts by Breibart, as reported, turned out to be inaccurate and misleading.
Breibart may very well prevail. He might also, on principle think he is right, although it is hard to see it from where I sit. But, the more prudent thing, under this set of circumstances, would be to call a press conference and openly apologize for his actions and the injury it caused Ms. Sherrod. Address the hurt. Go straight to it. A lawsuit will not fix the hurt. Address the hurt and watch how quickly the parties will want to reach a settlement, learn from the experience and go on their merry ways.
Under these set of facts, this might very well be the best solution. Sometimes, you just gotta SIT on the ego.
“Motion to Dismiss
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon issued a series of orders this morning denying motions to dismiss or relocate former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod’s defamation lawsuit against conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.
Leon denied Breitbart’s initial motion to dismiss as well as a special motion to dismiss under Washington’s new statute barring strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs. Leon did not publish a written opinion along with his orders.
Sherrod is suing Breitbart, Breitbart’s colleague Larry O’Connor and an unnamed Shirley Sherrod defendant over the release of a video clip and accompanying text on Breitbart’s Web site claiming the video offered proof that Sherrod, who is black, discriminated against white farmers. Sherrod, in her complaint, argues Breitbart made defamatory accusations of racism based on a “deceptively edited” clip that was taken out of context.
The Blog of Legal Times Hhas the Full Story.