Monday, March 24, 2008

'Fahrenheit 9/11' Defamation Case Dismissed

A federal appeals court has dismissed the defamation lawsuit brought by a U.S. military veteran of Iraq against filmmaker Michael Moore over his depiction in the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. In Damon v. Moore, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that former Army Reserves Sgt. Peter J. Damon's appearance in the documentary could not be construed as defamatory.

Damon lost his right arm and part of his left arm while on National Guard duty in Iraq in 2003. While awaiting surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he was interviewed by Brian Williams of NBC about a new pain blocker he was receiving. Damon consented to the interview's broadcast on Nightly News but not to its use elsewhere. Nonetheless, NBC allowed Moore to use it in the documentary, which was critical of President Bush and the Iraq war. The 16-second clip showed Damon describing the pain he had felt in his hands.

In his lawsuit, Damon claimed the film was an attack on the integrity of the Commander-in-Chief and on the Armed Forces and he alleged that his appearance in it defamed him by falsely portraying him as sharing and endorsing Moore's views. On appeal after the trial court dismissed the case, the 1st Circuit affirmed the dismissal, ruling that his appearance in the film was not susceptible to a defamatory meaning either within the community at large or within the community of military personnel and veterans.
"While we appreciate Damon's anger and frustration over appearing without his consent in a documentary that stands in direct contrast to his own personal and political beliefs, we conclude that his appearance in the documentary is not reasonably susceptible of a defamatory meaning. ... Since Damon's appearance was not reasonably susceptible to a defamatory meaning under Massachusetts law, we need not reach the question of whether being falsely labeled either pro- or anti-war, as a matter of law, holds a member of the military up to the type of scorn and ridicule required for a defamation claim."
The full decision can be read here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Podcast: Spitzer and the Law

Lawyers considered Eliot Spitzer either a hero or a villain. But as the now-former governor of New York faces possible criminal charges, we explore the case against him on this week's edition of the legal-affairs podcast LegalTalkNetwork. Joining my cohost J. Craig Williams and me to discuss the legal case against Spitzer are: Harvey Silverglate, nationally known criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, writer and blogger; Dan Slater, lead writer for The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog; and David Frank, former criminal prosecutor and now a reporter at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
You can receive all Lawyer2Lawyer programs by subscribing via RSS or using iTunes.

Libel Suit Tossed Against Local News Site

A Vermont judge has dismissed the libel lawsuit filed against Chris Grotke and Lise LePage over a comment posted on the community news site they co-founded, The plaintiff, Effie Mayhew, had argued that they should have edited or removed the allegedly defamatory comment. But the judge found that they are immune from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

David Ardia has full details at Citizen Media Law Project.

Town's Unposted Meetings Violated Law

The town of Charlton's ad hoc Water Search Subcommittee violated the Massachusetts open meeting law when it met in a series of unposted meetings, the Worcester District Attorney's Office has ruled. According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the meetings came to light after the newspaper filed a public records request for the subcommittee's minutes. Upon learning of the illegal meetings, the newspaper filed a complaint with the DA.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Podcast: Incompetence Among Immigration Lawyers

A recent decision of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opened with these words: "With disturbing frequency, this Court encounters evidence of ineffective representation by attorneys retained by immigrants seeking legal status in this country." This week on the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer, my cohost J. Craig Williams and I explore the competence of legal representation provided to immigrants. Joining us as guests to discuss this issue are three experts in immigration law:
We discuss the quality of legal representation provided to immigrants, why so many immigrants receive inadequate legal assistance and what lawyers are doing to educate clients and the bar.
You can receive all Lawyer2Lawyer programs by subscribing via RSS or using iTunes.