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

In a complaint filed today, congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard sued Hillary Clinton for defamation over Clinton having referred to Gabbard as a “Russian asset” during a podcast.  The complaint accuses Clinton of harboring a grudge ever since Gabbard endorsed Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election:
Continue Reading Tulsi Gabbard Sues Hillary Clinton for Defamation Over “Russian Asset” Comment

In an opinion today, the Second Circuit revived Sarah Palin’s suit accusing The New York Times of defaming her in an editorial suggesting that her political action committee’s use of “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 (see our prior coverage here).

The Second Circuit took issue with Judge Rakoff relying on evidence from an evidentiary hearing — the testimony from Times editor James Bennet — to dismiss the case under Rule 12.  As the Second Circuit held, Rule 12(d) allows District Courts to either rule based on the pleadings alone, or to convert the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment (with an opportunity to introduce more evidence):
Continue Reading In Reviving Sarah Palin’s Suit Against the Times, Second Circuit Rejects Use of Evidentiary Hearings on Motions to Dismiss

This week, Judge Sweet dismissed a complaint brought by a former Fox News Latino vice president who was terminated after a Fox News contributor accused him of sexual assault.  According to the complaint, a joint statement by Fox News and the accuser published in a New York Times article — stating that Fox News took

In an opinion this week by Judge Forrest (sitting by designation), the Second Circuit reversed in part Judge Castel’s dismissal (covered here) of claims brought by a University of Virginia fraternity against Rolling Stone magazine over a widely discredit article telling the story of a source named “Jackie” being gang raped at a fraternity party.

The Second Circuit found that the complaint made out a plausible claim of “small group defamation” :
Continue Reading Second Circuit Revives “Small Group Defamation” Claim By Fraternity Against Rolling Stone