The Contrarian

“In the investment markets, what everyone knows is usually not worth knowing.”

Can President Trump Change US Libel Laws?

One of Trump’s promises was that he would overhaul US Libel Laws. Having been a victim of malicious and outrageous defamation, we look favorably upon this. An interesting article on Zerohedge sheds more light on Trump’s take:

Donald Trump said he’d like to “open up” libel laws. How much should that concern you?

He said:

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.

We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” Trump said.

A Trump critic writes this:

Only false statements of fact can be defamatory. Arguments, characterizations, insults, and aspersions can’t be, unless they are premised on explicit or implied false statements of fact.

When a public figure like Trump sues for defamation, they must prove that the defendant made a false statement with actual malice — that is, they must show that the statement was false and that the defendant either knew it was false or recklessly disregarded whether or not it was false.

“Reckless disregard” means something like deliberately ignoring manifest signs that the statement was false. That’s been the standard since New York Times v. Sullivan in 1964. Note that even under this standard, a media outlet that wrote a “purposely . . . false” statement of fact can be held liable.

First, there’s the requirement that defamation involve a statement of fact, not an opinion or insult. Second, there’s the actual malice standard that applies to defamation claims against public figures.

So: whether or not Trump really wants to “open up” defamation law, it’s unlikely he can.

Our comment: Trump is on the right track. The concept of “privilege” needs to be changed. This allows unethical lawyers to get away with outrageous lies and falsehoods, put them in press releases, and be protected. This differs from state to state. Some states, like California, protect an attorney against defamation suits for posting such malicious press releases, as long as he is only “paraphrasing” the content of his own lawsuit. This leads to abuse.

In an effort to get the target (defendant) to settle a case, he will file a lawsuit with totally false allegations and lies. This then allows him to post a press release that is circulated globally. The hope is that the target is then so concerned about his good reputation being damaged personally, he settles in order to have the press release deleted. Then the lawyer gets his big contingency fee, and he goes to the next case. Weren’t these people called “ambulance chasers” years ago? They have now progressed to the internet age.

Believe it or not, in California and some other states, such acts of an attorney are protected. That makes it very difficult to sue the attorney for defamation. Other states, like Illinois, appear to frown upon such lawyer tactics.

The system is rigged. Trump may change that…if he doesn’t change his mind, which he does quite often.

Read the full article here:  http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-14/can-president-trump-really-open-libel-laws