It's On: Shirley Sherrod sues Andrew Breitbart

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by bradl, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. bradl macrumors 68040

    bradl

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    #1
    This one, you'll want some popcorn, a chili dog, a meat pie, a beer, some more beer, another beer, and a 40 ounce for.. and even the plasma! This one should be good.

    First, from the AP:

    Secondly, from Memmott & James:

    This one is going to get nasty, in a Dynasty catfight meets Stone Cold kinda way. The only thing more it needs is for the case to be tried in Mills Lane's court.

    BL.
     
  2. dscuber9000 macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    About time. Journalism is a responsibility, and this guy completely abused it. In the court of me, this would be an open-and-shut case. :D
     
  3. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #3
    If you're going to play the smear game, you'd better have a good lawyer.

    Here's to Shirley, using up a little of his retirement fund.

    Go git'em!
     
  4. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    #4
    Agreed. This is a clear example of libel, he needs to be sued.
     
  5. codymac macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Nah... false light & actual malice are pretty obvious in this one. It will be over quickly.

    Public figures don't bring defamation suits unless they're confident they'll prevail as the standards involving them are elevated.
     
  6. CaptMurdock macrumors 6502a

    CaptMurdock

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    #6
    Excellent! In an ideal world, this would send a message to the right-wing propaganda machine that uses disinformation and outright lies to further their agenda. I know that the message probably won't be received, but at least someone is taking a stand.
     
  7. likemyorbs macrumors 68000

    likemyorbs

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    #7
    Can't wait to hear Fox "news" reporting on this one.
     
  8. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #8
    good it is about time someone started going after these people. Sadly this is just the beginning and hell afterwards I would fully support nailing the big guys for repeatly airing the clip and making it worse. Force the big media to fact check. There is no way in hell that the other big media outlets did not know it was out of context and made it worse. They should be nailed for it as well.
     
  9. CaptMurdock macrumors 6502a

    CaptMurdock

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    #9
    Granted, they have some culpability -- minor -- on this, but the story started with Breitbart, and he knew damn well it was false and his intent was malicious. The media as a whole, not so much.
     
  10. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #10
    their intent was to start a **** storm and they knew it. So they should be nailed for every viewer they had on every time they showed it. Not as much per view was the orginal guy but still nailed. $1 per viewer per time should be fair.

    That will cost them a pretty penny and teach them not to intentionally start a **** storm.
     
  11. CaptMurdock macrumors 6502a

    CaptMurdock

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    #11
    Maybe, but if the McMartins couldn't sue the media as a whole on that basis, neither can Sherrod. You'd get to the point where you have to sue every viewer they had on every time they showed it -- after all, if people didn't watch, they wouldn't show it, would they?

    Breitbart, OTOH, knew he was lying and is just a general turd. Off with his head.
     
  12. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

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    #12
    while true nailing media as a whole is near impossible but does not change the fact that our major networks do not care about the truth and they knew at the time what they were showing was pretty much made up crap but it would get viewers and increase the storm.

    It would be nice to see NBC, ABC, FOX, CNN.... all go down. As for nailing them not hard to pull ratings. They all have them and just fine them $1 for each of those viewers and boy howdy would they start cleaning up their act after a few nails like that.

    I mean it might make them OMG report the whole truth and remove their spin crap out of it. They are very good at leaving out key parts of information. It pathetic how bad they are.
     
  13. AP_piano295 macrumors 65816

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    #13
    I agree with that.

    In the age where anyone can become a journalist and a story can go worldwide in less than 24 hours. The big news outlets need to take the time to verify their stories before they join the brawl.

    Instead the big news outlets are all about stoking the flames because anger and hysteria generates viewers.
     
  14. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

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    #14
    Lately some of the best people in politics are named Sherrod. :D

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    I wish I could be as confident as you. Bush & Cheney never stood trial for anything. I realize this joker isn't nearly on the same level, but I'll bet he's got deep-pocketed, connected friends. A-holes like Breitbart always seem to walk.
     
  15. kavika411, Feb 15, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2011

    kavika411 macrumors 6502a

    kavika411

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    #15
    I give a **** about Breitbart and/or Sherrod and/or what happened, but each of you could not be more wrong about the likelihood of the success of this lawsuit. What will happen is Breitbart will make what is called a "nuisance settlement offer," probably between $2,000 and $15,000, and it will be accepted by Sherrod, and the lawsuit will disappear. There will be a confidentiality component to the settlement, and no one will know for sure the settlement amount or that there was a settlement at all. You'll simply read one day - perhaps tomorrow, perhaps a year from now - that the lawsuit has been voluntarily dismissed. And that will be it.

    If you are correct, and the case actually goes to trial and to a judgment, and if the judgment is in favor of Sherrod, I'll change my signature to "I have Bieber Fever!!!"
     
  16. bagelche macrumors 6502

    bagelche

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    #16
    Looking forward to it! :)
     
  17. codymac macrumors 6502

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    #17
    :confused:

    Since the only points I made were about false light and actual malice, please explain how you don't think that's already well established.

    I don't think for a minute he's going to buy her career for $15k.
     
  18. kavika411 macrumors 6502a

    kavika411

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    #18
    Perhaps you know more about the lawsuit than I. What I've read is that her lawsuit sets forth a single cause of action: defamation. (She has alleged emotional distress, but that is a damages component to defamation, not a cause of action in itself.) To prove a case for defamation, you have to prove it's elements. According to this, the elements of defamation in Washington, D.C. (where the lawsuit was filed), are:

    (1) falsity;
    (2) an unprivileged communication;
    (3) fault on the part of the defendant; and
    (4) damages.

    No matter how great, evil, altruistic, disgusting, loving, hateful Breitbart is, Sherrod must prove these elements. All of these elements. There will be two occasions she will have to do so. First, she'll have to prove these elements generally to get over Breitbart's inevitable "motion for summary judgment," which will come at the end of discovery. (The judge will look at the facts and law and determine if there are any questionable facts for a jury to decide, as opposed to dismissing the lawsuit at that time.) Second, she'll have to prove these elements with specificity at trial.

    She can easily put on evidence of No. 3 "damages," and I don't see any reason she can't put on evidence of No. 4 "fault." Same with No. 3 "unprivileged."

    However, where's the No. 1 "falsity" in the video? There's no precedent that editing a video is per se "false." If so, there would be unending lawsuits against every news cast that plays portions of speeches and such. Hell, Bill O'Reilly and Christian Bale could would make loads of money over this (hysterical but not safe for work).

    Lastly, she's a "public figure." For better or worse, the defamation scale slides slightly against a public figure and more towards a private citizen. That would be taken into account at both the summary judgment level and at the charging of the jury.

    Not sure why you mention "actual malice."

    Not sure what you mean. A nuisance settlement offer is made and accepted when (1) neither side wants to put more money into litigation costs, and (2) it appears unlikely the plaintiff (Sherrod) will prevail. Assuming my above analysis is correct, and assuming they've both had their fifteen minutes of fame with regard to the original event and lawsuit, I feel very comfortable in saying he will offer her a small amount, with a heavy confidentiality clause, and she will accept it. Poof. It will be gone, and no one will ever know what happened.
     
  19. codymac macrumors 6502

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    #19
    It's lined out here, and part of the elevated public figure tests established in New York Times v. Sullivan. A definition can be found in your link:

    What I mean is, I seriously doubt $15k would be acceptable to her.
     
  20. kavika411, Feb 15, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2011

    kavika411 macrumors 6502a

    kavika411

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    #20
    I kind of see your point. However, the "falsity" hurdle still must be overcome. I don't know the situation as well as others, but my understanding is that it is a video of her speaking. Sure, it was edited, but it's still her words. To contrast, the last defamation case that I defended that went to a jury was when my client said, "John Doe did such-and-such." The jury decided that John Doe had not in fact done such-and-such, and popped my client for $600,000+. Here, like I said before, these are Sherrod's own words edited down - something your local and national news does all.day.long.

    I doubt it would be either, but I bet she accepts such a nuisance offer anyway.

    EDIT: I'm still mulling over the "malice" component. Let's pretend for a second that a Fox News reporter hates President Obama. And let's pretend for a moment that during a speech Obama says something that can be grabbed and, when quoted by itself, would make Obama look like an idiot and/or racist and/or anti-environment. Let's pretend the reporter does that, and is quoted later as admitting he did it because he hates Obama and wanted to sway public sentiment against him. Malicious? Sure. Actionable (successfully) as defamation? Of course not.
     
  21. codymac macrumors 6502

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    #21
    Yeah - guess we disagree on the falsity point though.

    Masson v New Yorker Magazine showed that even technically correct quotations, when used improperly can be a "gross distortion" (SCOTUS).

    Price v Stossel is still in play and covers video editing. The Ninth Circuit has stated that video editing can be a "material alteration." This one will probably end up answering the video editing question when it's done.

    Some decent writeups here:

    http://www.socialmedialawupdate.com/tags/libel/

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/08/24/industry-us-disney-lawsuit-idUSTRE67N4NT20100824

    http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1990/1990_89_1799

    To me, Breitbart is his biggest enemy in this case. He's openly stated that his intent was to illustrate racism. That's where the actual malice comes in (for me). The rest sort of comes down to, like you say, how the standards are applied where it's filed and what the court considers as falsity.

    The real shame is that you're likely correct in that there will be a settlement and we'll never know the details, regardless of the outcome.
     
  22. kavika411 macrumors 6502a

    kavika411

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    #22
    Thanks for the links. You make good points, and I missed that Breitbart said, "illustrate racism." What's funny is that, if this case is like the one I defended that I mentioned above, the ultimate question will be whether the comment "illustrated racism," and here's what I mean. In my case, my client wrote, "John Doe committed plagiarism." The seven-day trial, and all of the pre-trial motions, came down to whether the jury felt that John Doe had plagiarized. There was testimony from various "plagiarism experts" (funny, I know") saying he did and saying he did not. Ultimately, the plaintiff's attorneys did a better job of proving he had not plagiarized, ergo there was a plaintiff's verdict.

    So, what's my point, other than to tell a boring war story? If this Breitbart case doesn't quickly settle - which I'm afraid it will - it will likely become a case more about "what is racism" than anything else. That would be cool to follow.

    Thanks again for the links.
     
  23. codymac macrumors 6502

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    #23
    No sweat. Law is a lot more engaging than my day job in IT.
    :D

    I didn't think of that it going from the misrepresentation to actually having to show, and define, racism. That could be pretty interesting but man, it's got so much potential to be inappropriately co-opted that I shudder just thinking bout them.
     
  24. hulugu macrumors 68000

    hulugu

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