In an opinion today, Judge Woods ruled, in essence, that retweets are not endorsements. The ruling came in connection with a denial of CNN’s motion for reconsideration in a case brought by two family members of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The court had previously ruled that the plaintiffs’ false light claim against CNN could proceed, based on a CNN report that suggested the plaintiffs were followers of the conspiracy group QAnon.

Judge Woods rejected the argument (initially accepted in a report and recommendation by Magistrate Judge Cave) that the plaintiffs’ “likes” and “retweets” of pro-QAnon tweets rendered the association with QAnon substantially true:
Continue Reading Judge Woods: Retweets Are Not Endorsements

In an opinion Friday, Judge Kaplan denied a motion by former President Donald Trump to amend his answer to add a counterclaim against the plaintiff, E. Jean Carroll, who accuses Trump of defamation based on his public statements alleging that she fabricated sexual assault allegations against him (see our prior coverage here).

The proposed counterclaim would have sought attorney fees and other relief under New York’s anti-SLAPP law. Judge Kaplan found that the counterclaim was futile, but went further to emphasize that the counterclaim was part of a larger pattern of stalling, including: evading service; pursuing  “frivolous motions practice”; seeking a stay in favor of another case, even though Trump previously argued the other case was unrelated; and, finally, attempting to have the Attorney General intervene.

Judge Kaplan found these tactics to be improper:
Continue Reading Judge Kaplan Harshly Criticizes Donald Trump’s Delay Tactics in Defamation Case, Refuses Proposed Counterclaim Amendment

In the long-running defamation case brought by Sarah Palin against the New York Times (see our prior coverage here), Judge Rakoff issued an opinion yesterday explaining his ruling from the bench granting judgment as a matter of law to the Times. The ruling was announced orally to counsel at the close of trial, before the jury returned its verdict. The jury subsequently ruled in the Times’ favor, as well.

The central issue in the case was whether the Times acted with “actual malice” when it issued an editorial erroneously suggesting that the actions of Palin’s political action committee – using “stylized cross hairs” over the districts of several members of Congress in online materials – was responsible for the “political incitement” of Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people and wounded many others, including Representative Gabby Giffords, in a 2011 mass shooting.

Judge Rakoff found that the author, James Bennet, did not act with actual malice because, among other things, he was so quick to direct that the matter be corrected the morning after the editorial was published:
Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: It Would “Chill Protected Speech” To Hold NY Times Liable for Careless, Quickly-Corrected Editorial About Sarah Palin

In an opinion Friday, Judge Crotty dismissed a case brought by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell over an article in the Daily Mail accusing him of having a secret romantic relationship with Jane Krakowski, the actress best known for her role on the TV show 30 Rock. Judge Crotty concluded that the article’s statements, even if false, were simply not defamatory:
Continue Reading Judge Crotty: Falsely Accusing a Single Man of Dating an Actress is Not Defamatory

In an opinion Monday, Judge Castel allowed (in part) defamation claims to proceed against the makers of the film, “When They See Us,” about the “Central Park Five.” The first sentences of the opinion summarize the context: “On the night of April 19, 1989, a young woman was viciously beaten and raped in Central Park. Five young men of color (the ‘Five’), ranging in age from 14 to 16, were arrested, tried and convicted for the attack. They were exonerated in 2002, after the confession of a man whose DNA matched a sample found near the victim.”

The case was brought by one of the prosecutors, Linda Fairstein, who is “portrayed as the central villain” in the film. Judge Castel explained that, while the film dramatized certain of the events, viewers would still understand it as conveying the “essence” of what really happened, and thereby capable of defaming someone if that portrayal were untrue:
Continue Reading Judge Castel: “Docudrama” Over Central Park Five Can Be The Subject of Defamation Claims

This week, the Second Circuit issued two orders reversing in part the district court’s decision dismissing claims brought by former Knicks player Charles Oakley, all stemming from a 2017 incident at Madison Square Garden where Oakley was forcibly removed from the stands during a Knicks game by the arena’s security (see our previous coverage here).

The Second Circuit concluded that the allegations of excessive force were best left for a jury to decide:
Continue Reading Second Circuit Allows Charles Oakley’s Assault and Battery Claims to Proceed, But Agrees Defamation Claims Should Be Dismissed

In an opinion Tuesday, Judge Kaplan denied the Justice Department’s motion to substitute the United States for Donald Trump as the defendant in a defamation suit against the president in his individual capacity. The plaintiff, E. Jean Carroll, published a book excerpt in 2019 alleging that Trump raped her in the mid-1990s. Trump told the press that Carroll made the story up, and Carroll sued him for defamation. The Justice Department intervened, arguing that the lawsuit was really one against the United States because Carroll had sued an “employee” of the United States for actions within the scope of his employment.

Judge Kaplan held that the president is a constitutional officer rather than a government “employee,” and that the allegedly defamatory statements were not made within the scope of his employment because, as the chief executive of the United States government, no one else has the power to control his conduct: “To hold that someone else exercises control over the president would turn the Constitution on its head.” On this point, Judge Kaplan continued:

Continue Reading Judge Kaplan Rejects Justice Department’s Attempt to Intervene on Trump’s Behalf in Defamation Suit

In an opinion today, Judge Vyskocil granted Fox News’s motion to dismiss a defamation claim centered on an episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight. In the episode, Carlson was responding to President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen having pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for arranging to pay settlements to two women alleged to have had affairs with Trump. Carlson was critical of media suggestions that Trump should be impeached or held criminally responsible for the payments:

Two women approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money. Now, that sounds like a classic case of extortion. Yet, for whatever reason, Trump caves to it, and he directs Michael Cohen to pay the ransom. Now, more than two years later, Trump is a felon for doing this. It doesn’t seem to make any sense.

Judge Vyskocil ruled that, in context, this was not a literal accusation of extortion, but intended to frame the debate in the guest commentary segment that followed:
Continue Reading Judge Vyskocil: Tucker Carlson’s “Extortion” Jab Was Hyperbole, Not Defamation

On Friday, Judge Rakoff denied cross-motions for summary judgment in Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against the New York Times. (See our earlier coverage here.) Palin argued that the “actual malice” standard for defamatory statements against public figures was no longer good law or did not apply to this case, while the Times argued that no reasonable jury could find that the allegedly defamatory statements were published with actual malice. The case will proceed to trial next Februrary.

Continue Reading Judge Rakoff Clears Sarah Palin’s Defamation Lawsuit Against NY Times for February Trial