First Amendment News


Congratulations to Project Veritas on its victory in court yesterday. They were being sued for defamation in a federal court in North Carolina, and Judge Martin K. Reidinger granted them a directed verdict when the plaintiff failed to produce enough evidence for the case to go to the jury. The judge said this in his ruling (beginning at the bottom of page 14 of the transcript below):

The law requires, and the Supreme Court has made clear under the Liberty Lobby case, that I not only have to look at this from the standpoint of whether or not there is the thinnest of thin reeds, that scintilla of evidence, but rather whether a jury could find by clear and convincing evidence that there was actual malice. And these very thin reeds, which I believe as to several of these are really no evidence of malice at all, are insufficient to meet that standard. Therefore, for that reason, the defendant’s motion — defendant’s motions pursuant to Rule 50 will be granted.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 deals with ruling on matters of law during a jury trial. Judge Reidinger continued:

Whenever I have something that is of particular difficulty, such as this case, it is my ordinary, knee-jerk reaction to tell the party that I’ve ruled against that I urge you to have the court of appeals go grade my paper. To that end, I will say that I will follow this up with a written order before I enter a judgment in this matter that will further elucidate what I’m talking about.

And I do have an inclination to say exactly that. I think that if I got this wrong I’d certainly like for somebody to tell me that I got it wrong. I have a little bit of hesitation in saying that this time. Because if I’ve gotten this wrong, and the Fourth Circuit says that this is not what the law is, I hesitate to think where the First Amendment is going in this country.

It’s always good First Amendment news when a frivolous defamation LOLsuit fails, and I have to admit that seeing one fail because the plaintiff couldn’t come up with a “scintilla” of evidence at trial has a certain resonance for me.

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