While the conservative blogosphere is focused on Brett Kimberlin, there is another instance of possible “lawfare” which deserves attention.
Roughly three weeks ago a lawsuit alleging defamation against a conservative blogger was filed in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia.
The claim was brought by Georgia Democratic Party Political Director, Rashad Richey, against conservative blogger Andre Walker of Georgia Politics Unfiltered, as well as a number of other named and unnamed Defendants.
In Richey’s complaint, a number of points were cited as evidence of libel and libel per se. Both of these categories fall under the legal umbrella of defamation. The complaint referenced, among other things, blog posts where Walker wrote that Richey had a “history of making poor personal decisions,” that he was a “criminal,” and a “jailbird.”
Walker further asserts that the statements at issue were made in the exercise of Walker’s “right of free speech under the Constitutions of Georgia and the United States of America…” and that truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim. News reports have publicized Richey’s history of run-ins with the law.
Additionally, Richey likely will be considered a “public figure” under the law, requiring him to prove actual malice.
In a landmark defamation case in 1964, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of a defamation suit regarding a public figure. Said Justice Brennan:
…we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.
Given the difficulty of the case, why even assert the claim in the first place?
While not as dramatic as what has been going on with the Kimberlin “lawfare” issue which is dominating the right-blogosphere, such lawsuits can have a chilling effect. While we can’t know Richey’s actual motives, this lawsuit likely is to deter others from probing issues as to Richey’s background.
It is imperative that we ensure that bloggers are free to state their political opinions with vigor, and to do so free from fear of legal action, or in some cases, bodily harm.
More to come as this case develops.