Let’s make winning defamation cases a profit center for the left

First some happy good news. Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss won their defamation case against OAN!

OAN Settles One Election Defamation Suit, Only One Million To Go

After months of vicious harassment Freeman and Moss sued Giuliani and OAN, which “spent months airing grainy edited footage of the pair, and the network’s White House correspondent Chanel Rion for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Separately, the pair filed a similar suit against wingnut website Gateway Pundit in Missouri state court.”

Joy Reid’s story in the Reidout Blog reminds people of the threats the two received.

In this third piece on threats I wanted to give an example of what to DO when threatened by the right. (Part 1 , Part 2)

This Freeman defamation case is a prime example of a successful action given our current justice system, media and social media environment. I’ve been looking into civil actions because criminal cases take a long time and you have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil cases can be won with a preponderance of evidence.

The civil cases against Rudy Giuliani and the Gateway Pundit that involves doxxing are still open. I hope those will be successful too.

Every week I listen to Glenn Kurschner explain why prosecutors don’t want to take on cases that they think they can’t win, especially cases against TFG. In part one I wrote about all the excuses police, the media and politicians use to avoid dealing with cases involving threats & harassment.

Too often financial settlements can turn into, “Just the cost of doing business” especially for people who have the resources to pay the fines. A financial settlement also can be used to shut down criminal cases, as we have seen with sexual harassment cases. So to get justice for the victims we need to also use the criminal justice system. This is why we still need to find the people who made the death threats against Ruby and Shay and put them in jail.

Ask your lawyer if a defamation case is right for you!

I had a great conversation with Daniel Powell, the Managing Attorney at Minc Law, LLC. they handle defamation cases and his firm has a lot of excellent info on their website. One of the things he explained was the importance of figuring how what is and isn’t a good case and what can be done to help people. Sometimes it doesn’t involve filing a defamation case.

He explained the process of getting evidence, uncovering anonymous users, and how they work with social media companies. (I was so impressed by the depth & breath of the info I told him to pass on my praise to the research and writing staff. )

The right has increased the level of threats, harassment and defamation against the left in the last 5 years. We now have a model for a successful defamation case, let’s use it!

I’ve passed on the info about dealing with defamation to my friends in the media. I’m also going to pass it onto my friends in public health. Hundreds of individuals have chosen to leave the public health profession rather than deal with the harassment and attacks. The protections in most states are weak or non-existent. A few states finally passed some laws against harassing and doxxing public health officials. The folks at the Network for Public Health Law. ( NPHL) put together a 50 state guide of the legal protections for public health community for the National Association for Country and City Health Officials (NACCHO)

NACCHO does great work. I’ve talked to the CEO, Lori Tremmel Freeman many times, and learned what their members are facing with regard to threats on social media and other attacks. The lawyers at NPHL have been educating people on what laws apply to them in their states. But right now it’s not in either of their remits to help individual public health staff to find, and then sue, the people who have been harassing, threatening and defaming them.

I’m encouraging them and the folks within State Associations of County and City Health Officials (SACCHO) to help their members deal with the attacks. Based on the number of threats around the country, the odds are high that many of them have legitimate civil defamation cases.

For a current example look at this case St. Luke’s Health System filed against Ammon Bundy, Diego Rodriguez and their various political organizations for defamation and “sustained online attacks.” Bundy’s lawyers are incredibly smart and have evaded criminal charges for years, but assembling a preponderance of evidence against them is very doable. What most people don’t know is that Bundy’s group has backers with deep pockets.

St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise Idaho and Ammon Bundy (Thomas Boyd/Oregon Live Staff)

But if defamation becomes a profit center, won’t everyone do it?

When I say, “Turn defamation into a profit center!” I know there is are right-wing groups that will say, “We were defamed too! We’re going to file cases against the LEFT!” But here’s the deal, they aren’t looking for justice after being threatened and defamed. They’re filing lawsuits to scare people, shut them up and force them to use their resources to defend against frivolous cases.  As a demonstration of this, with an instant example, OAN filed a defamation suit against Rachel Maddow. THEY LOST. BIG TIME OAN Ordered to Pay MSNBC $250,000 After Losing Defamation Suit)

We all know that the right loves to be the victim, even when they aren’t. Besides whining about what they’ll call defamation, they’ll start reporting dubious cases against us on social media, start filing bogus police reports about being attacked by chalk and start frivolous lawsuits. They’ll use the new Texas social media law to tie up the courts.

When the media starts reporting on this I worry they’ll get bogged down into the technicalities and miss how the right has been using he law to muddy it’s legitimate use.

We need to point out the MASSIVE DIFFERENCE between the left trying to get justice and compensation for harm inflicted on them vs the right using the legal system to inflict new harm based on bogus claims.

We need to be clear about the serious harm that is being done by the right to the left with their threats, harassment and defamation. We need to build a record of multiple successful criminal and civil cases against the right. But it won’t be easy. As Atrios so succinctly put it:

“…the job of Dem lawyers is to tell you why you can’t do things, and the job of Republican lawyers is to tell you (them) why they can.
Also, too, Dems have a “if you can’t win, don’t try” approach, instead of “keep trying to show what you’re up against” attitude.”

@Atrios, Eschaton Blog May 5, 2022

I’m calling for the legitimate and totally appropriate use of the civil legal system. I’m also calling for clear messaging from the left on this like, “THIS IS A GOOD THING. DO MORE OF THIS.”

(MSNBC could, for example, compare Freeman’s successful case against OAN’s to OAN’s failed defamation case against Rachel Maddow. But they won’t. They hate being the subject of a story. )

The right will use the legal system to slow down, wear down and depress us. But they’ve been losing. Some are even getting disbarred in the process for their frivolous cases.

The court of public opinion matters too. We must cheer on the fact that Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss won a big defamation case. OAN lost. Our case was legitimate. Their case wasn’t.

We Fight. We Win. We Do It Again.

The Trump strategy of using threats, intimidation and defamation to get what he wants has been working for him for decades. He’s encouraged others to do the same. He’ll never change his behavior. But not everyone has his resources. He’s not the target for these cases.

Civil cases are just one way change the behavior of the people on the right. They know that what they are doing is wrong, but it doesn’t become real to them until they have to pay a price. They are paying now. Make more of them pay.

Cross posted to Hullabaloo

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