Newspaper Sued For Defaming Judge Over Defamation Ruling
from the touchy dept
According to the legal filing by the judge, Melvin R. Hughes Jr., (embedded below), the defamatory statements really seem pretty tame. Basically, after losing the original case, the editorial said that there was "a bevy of evidence," supporting its side of the case, but "[unfortunately], the judge and the jury in the case did not feel the same way." It goes on to defend its original reporting... and then there's the key sentence:
We were naive in thinking that this fact alone would lead to a victory in civil case we had deemed frivolous. We did not take into account the politics played in a courtroom -- between judges and counsel -- and the maneuverings of counsel who treat facts casually.If that's defamatory, it seems pretty weakly so. In context, it seems pretty clear that this is a newspaper that lost a lawsuit and is upset about how it was handled by the court. That's not too surprising, and taken in context, it seems like most people would reasonably discount the general anger at the outcome. Perhaps the statement could be read to suggest corruption, but that seems like a stretch. Instead, this really feels like a SLAPP suit... so it seems rather unfortunate that Virginia currently has no anti-SLAPP laws. Either way, it seems problematic that a judge would sue someone complaining about a ruling for defamation, as it could have clear chilling effects on anyone else speaking out about treatement they felt was unfair in court.