There has been a bit of chatter here on Slabbed and elsewhere about the Nova Scotia court case, much of it by people who have no clue what I’ve written or clued into the fact I did not respond to the suit against me in Nova Scotia at all. It typically starts with the assumption that I libeled Leary and Perret and ends in some ignorant induced conclusion such as those found on this internet BB. I am happy to have this discussion about the general topic but what do I know as I’m just a dumb redneck blogger from Mississippi. 😉
Before I posted to the internet on a financial message board for the first time a decade ago, I took time to learn about defamation and other issues. The concepts are not that hard to grasp. I mention all this because there are a couple of websites that have lots of information on defamation and the use of predatory defamation suits to silence perceived critics aka the SLAPP suit. I prefer Chilling Effects as their FAQ on US defamation laws is very good. Here is a snippet:
Question What are the elements of a defamation claim?
Answer: The party making a defamation claim (plaintiff) must ordinarily prove four elements:
1. a publication to one other than the person defamed;
2. a false statement of fact;
3. that is understood as
a. being of and concerning the plaintiff; and
b. tending to harm the reputation of plaintiff.
4. If the plaintiff is a public figure, he or she must also prove actual malice.
That 4th bullet is important, mainly because we do not blog much about non public figures here on Slabbed and yes Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret are public figures multiple ways:
Question: Who is a public figure?
Answer: A public figure is someone who has actively sought, in a given matter of public interest, to influence the resolution of the matter. In addition to the obvious public figures ? a government employee, a senator, a presidential candidate ? someone may be a limited-purpose public figure. A limited-purpose public figure is one who (a) voluntarily participates in a discussion about a public controversy, and (b) has access to the media to get his or her own view across. One can also be an involuntary limited-purpose public figure ? for example, an air traffic controller on duty at time of fatal crash was held to be an involuntary, limited-purpose public figure, due to his role in a major public occurrence.
So with that set up, writing for example, that the Lodge is in the middle of no where is not defamatory because it is a statement of opinion that also happens to ring true. Even Nigel Richardson at the UK Telegraph admits it though Leary and Perret have not sued him over such a statement like they did Slabbed. Trout Point’s defamation claim is riddled with counts such as that one, mostly related to protected statements of opinion.
Now I am very sensitive to Libel per se so lets visit it:
Question: What is libel per se?
Answer: When libel is clear on its face, without the need for any explanatory matter, it is called libel per se. The following are often found to be libelous per se:
A statement that falsely:
Charges any person with crime, or with having been indicted, convicted, or punished for crime;
Imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease;
Tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects that the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade, or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profits;
Imputes to him impotence or a want of chastity.
Of course, context can still matter. If you respond to a post you don’t like by beginning “Jane, you ignorant slut,” it may imply a want of chastity on Jane’s part. But you have a good chance of convincing a court this was mere hyperbole and pop cultural reference, not a false statement of fact.
So saying that Leary, Perret and Aaron Broussard were “thick as thieves” is certainly good (especially since it is true) as it refers to an American idiomatic expression that has nothing to do with actual thievery. What about me terming them grifters? There is no crime called grifting that I am aware of an in fact and a fair read of the ACOA case involving Leary and Perret would lead any reasonable person to that conclusion given the totality of what we know. In the US context is important and context is exactly what all my new arm-chair shithouse lawyers lack since most have read nothing beyond press regurgitations of Leary’s press release.
So this is what I want all you folks in the gay community that are spitting mad with Slabbed to do. Click here and start reading. If you find something you think is problematic given the laws here in the US post it in comments here or email me. I’ve been back over my posts, some of my readers have gone back over my posts and we simply do not see any legal problems here in the US.