Judge says blogger can be sued for defamation

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Bloggers beware!
A ruling by a federal judge in Oregon should send chills down your spine if you’re a blogger.
Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., was sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick when she posted online that he was a thug and a thief during the handling of bankruptcy proceedings by him and Obsidian Finance Group LLC.
Padrick, of Bend, Ore., was a trustee in a bankruptcy case involving Summit Accommodators, a company that helped property owners conduct real estate transactions in a way to limit taxes. Three executives face federal fraud and money laundering indictments.
Cox said she considered herself a journalist, producing more than 400 blogs over the past five years, with a proprietary technique to get her postings on the top of search engines where they get the most notice.

But last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez found that as a blogger, Cox was not a journalist and cannot claim the protections afforded to mainstream reporters and news outlets.
Media experts said that the ruling would have little effect on the definition of journalism, but it does cast a shadow on those who work in nontraditional media since it highlights the lack of case law that could protect them and the fact that current state shield laws for journalists are not covering recent developments in online media.
[Source: Jeff Barnard, “Federal judge: Montana blogger is not journalist,” Associated Press, Dec. 7, 2011.]

Federal judge Marco Hernandez

Federal district court judge, 54-year-old Marco A. Hernandez, was first nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush, and successfully nominated by Barack Obama. The Senate unanimously confirmed him in February 2011. Here is his contact info.:

1427 United States Courthouse
1000 Southwest Third Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97204-2944
(503) 326-8210

H/t my best bud Steve.
UPDATE (12.15.2011):
Read the judge’s opinion, here.
Judge Hernandez imposed a $2.5 million judgment on blogger Crystal Cox. Read more here.

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10 responses to “Judge says blogger can be sued for defamation

  1. Eowyn:
    I think the decision is a good one; and rather than limiting it to bloggers, it should be extended to cover mainstream journalists. Before the Supreme Court decided New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), the First Amendment was never considered a “license to lie.” Now it is—if you can claim the magic title “journalist.”

    • Glenn,
      Your reasoning will work only if you’re consistent, that is, if you favor the removal from the established “media” of the legal protection from defamation lawsuits. Otherwise, it’s only the alternative media of bloggers who are now vulnerable to such litigation.

  2. What about politicians who have been lying to us for years, and have blogged their lies. Hmmm
    If you do not like what one says or lies to you about, you are free to disregard it.
    As far as one blogging ones opinion which may include half truths or lying, one does have the right to do so with out government intervention unless a fraud is being perpetrated. And then criminal action should be taken. And that’s my opinion!

  3. No doubt Mike…and everyone in the SRM would be liable as well!

  4. Does this mean that if I type that : “Skippy is a thug and a thief and should be the cellmate of Blago” ,I’m liable, or do I have to preface every thing with ” I think”/ IMHO to qualify it as free expression/speech protected by the Constitution…or must I provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt ? Is it free speech or free thought or free expression with which we were endowed by our Creator ? What country is this Hernandez from …
    or is he merely a product of public education ?

  5. another and we have plenty for the judges hall of shame.

  6. Dr. Eowyn:
    It has always been actionable if anyone called you a criminal, thief, etc unless you have been convicted in a court of law or the writer is prepared to prove the “victim” IS a criminal, thief, etc. That was true from the founding of the Republic until New York Times v. Sullivan. Now, journalist can hide behind the First Amendment to call any public figure (and it does not take much to be a “public figure,” bloggng will do it), as long as they can claim it was not done with “malice.”
    How do you prove malice unless the reporter has been shooting off his mouth in a bar and addmitted “I did it deliberately to get rid of the s.o.b.” Most journalists are smarter than that so it is virtually impossible to prove malice in a libel suit; ergo, journalists have a license to lie and there is nothing a citizen can do about it.
    We have “truth in lending” laws; why not go back to the “truth in journalism” that served this Republic well for almost 200 years?

  7. That is why it is prudent to preface a remark with – “In my opinion”. That is usually a shield, but there have been times when that wasn’t enough, and the person could still be sued.

  8. Should this idiotic ruling stand, I’m guessing it will be used to target conservative bloggers only in an effort to silence them.
    The freedom-hating left has vowed to stifle dissent, and this activist judge is more than happy to help them in that effort.

  9. Update:
    Judge Hernandez imposed a $2.5 million judgment on blogger Crystal Cox. Read his opinion here:


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