Former Trump Spokesman Ordered To Pay $42,000 To Gizmodo After Losing His Bogus Defamation Lawsuit
from the windmill-jousting-a-surprisingly-expensive-sport dept
A former Trump spokesman has reached the end of his always-doomed attempt to sue an online publication for reporting on the content of court documents. And it’s going to cost him about $42,000 in legal fees.
Jason Miller was understandably disturbed when the now-defunct Splinter (owned by Gizmodo) wrote about allegations made by another Trump campaign staffer, A.J. Delgado. These allegations were made public during unrelated court proceedings. And they’re pretty disturbing.
On Friday, September 14, 2018, Ms. Delgado filed a supplement to an earlier motion for the court to consider a psychological evaluation of Mr. Miller. Essentially, the supplement stated that Ms. Delgado was informed in the summer of 2018 that Mr. Miller (while married) had an affair in 2012 with a stripper in Florida referred to as Jane Doe; that Mr. Miller had sexual intercourse with Ms. Doe; that Ms. Doe became pregnant; that Mr. Miller visited Ms. Doe and gave her a beverage which, unbeknownst to her, contained an abortion pill; that Ms. Doe wound up in a hospital emergency room, bleeding heavily, and almost went into a coma; that the pill induced an abortion; and that Ms. Doe’s unborn child died. The supplement identified Ms. Delgado’s initial source for this information and stated that Ms. Doe had later confirmed the story to a journalist.
Splinter reported on these allegations, linking to the filed document. The supplement was later sealed, but that move couldn’t undo the reporting. Neither could Miller’s litigation.
He was first rejected at the district level. The court cited New York state law (where Splinter was located) as protecting journalists from being sued for reporting on allegations made in court filings. Furthermore, it pointed to Splinter’s posting of the filing itself as being instrumental to its fair reporting defense. ALWAYS POST DOCUMENTS, folks.
Miller’s appeal went no better. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court’s filings, both in terms of the First Amendment and New York state law. Anyone reading the filing posted by Splinter was free to draw their own conclusions from the sworn statements. A post-publication sealing by the court doesn’t suddenly make the contents of the documents privileged or any legitimate basis for a defamation lawsuit.
With the appeal going in favor of Splinter, the case has returned to the Florida court. And the lower court says [PDF] Miller is on the hook for legal fees.
Judgment in the amount of $41,868.23, reflecting costs incurred by Defendants at both the district court and appellate court levels, is entered against Plaintiff in accordance with the terms of the Stipulation.
That expense will be in addition to whatever Miller paid to engage in the fruitless litigation. If it’s said in court and made publicly available by the clerk — even temporarily — it’s fair game for reporting.