Results matching “libel”

Annals of meritless cause litigation - PointOfLaw Forum

"If you want to send a message, use Western Union." As with the recently dismissed Common Cause suit against the filibuster, however, we often see activists trying to craft legislative policy with the courts. Thankfully, courts are more reluctant to play philosopher-king than fifty years ago, and in some cases, defendants are fighting back.

  • ASPCA and several other organizations brought a trumped-up suit in 2000 against Ringling Brothers in an attempt to bar its use of elephants. The lead-witness plaintiff's sole source of income, however, was $190,000 paid by the animal-rights organizations for bringing the suit; the federal court found his after-the-fact allegations of emotional distress from witnessing elephant mistreatment were not credible. The parent company, Feld Entertainment countersued for the malicious litigation, and ASPCA recently settled—for a jaw-dropping $9.3 million. The RICO countersuit remains pending against several other defendants; CNN quotes the Humane Society as denying the allegations against it. [Ringling Bros. litigation website; ASPCA press release; Daily Caller; WSJ via Adler @ Volokh; Overlawyered on the case for years; Steele]
  • CEI files an anti-SLAPP motion against Michael Mann after he sues them for libel for criticizing him. [CEI; earlier on POL (see which for disclaimers)]
  • Per @andrewgrossman, "Lawsuits seek to generate 'awareness' of global warming, cost states a bundle." [Greenwire]
  • Speaking of a waste of taxpayer dollars, Walter Olson has the tale of the taxpayer-funded University of Maryland law clinic trying to destroy state jobs with an expensive meritless environmental suit against a local family farm. The clinic lost and is hoping to appeal. [Olson @ Balt. Sun; Overlawyered link roundup]

Compare and contrast: the case of Ed Blum, who has been bringing successful cases to the Supreme Court to enforce the Constitution's requirement of race-neutrality. [Biskupic @ Reuters]

As I've previously said, there's a lot of opportunity for the motivated conservative legal entrepreneur.

Michael Mann sues conservative critics for libel - PointOfLaw Forum

Michael Mann, of the controversial hockey-stick graph and the East Anglia e-mail controversy, not satisfied with demonizing critics as McCarthyists, has sued Rand Simberg and Mark Steyn and their publishers, arguing that their use of the rhetorical "fraudulent" is a technical accusation of academic fraud. As Alison Frankel notes, National Review is showing braggadocio, claiming that they'll use the lawsuit as a means for civil discovery into questions that they believe have not been adequately investigated. On the other hand, as the suit was filed in D.C. Superior Court (perhaps forum-shopping for a jury pool opposed to conservatives?), defense lawyers will have the option of an anti-SLAPP motion, and the case is exceedingly unlikely to get to a jury if the trial judge follows the law. The case is Mann v. National Review, Inc., No. 8263-12 (D.C. Superior Court Civ. Div.). [Frankel; NRO attorney letter; Steyn; Adler @ Volokh; Hayward; Worstall; Slashdot]

This reminds me of nothing so much as the Lott v. Levitt suit, which had the similar attempt to claim that the use of "replicate" in a lay sense could be understood as libelous if interpreted in a technical academic sense. As I said when it was a conservative economist suing a liberal critic several years ago, this is "not the soundest means of establishing academic credibility or resolving academic disagreements." (And, indeed, as I predicted at the time, Lott lost.) Even beyond the unlikelihood of legal success, the suit seems destined for a Streisand effect; CEI is already using it as a basis for fundraising.

The skeptic blogs cheered my analysis of Lott v. Levitt; it'll be interesting to see how they react to my similar conclusion about the meritlessness of Mann's suit. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the same sort of support for free speech when the gore is on the other ox. Indeed, Conde Nast's ars technica goes so far as to gleefully cite a scary Orwellian case in Australia where the government punished politically incorrect speech by compelling reeducation for the offending parties. Maybe the critics of global warming theory are wrong—but if the government can punish the critics for being critics, what's to stop the government from adopting an incorrect scientific theory as beyond challenge and punishing the scientists who correctly challenge it?

Separately, Mann's attorney has previously represented R.J. Reynolds and Mobil Oil. I haven't seen anyone in the environmental community complaining about this. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that—which I hope the Left remembers when they complain that CEI or other conservative organizations are not to be trusted because they have had funding from tobacco or oil interests.

[Disclosure: I am an unpaid member of the CEI legal advisory board; I have not been consulted on this case. I have no current opinion on the validity of the hockey-stick graph or the soundness of the investigations into the East Anglia emails.]

Around the web, September 4 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Overlawyered round-up of CCAF victories, plus two more on July 31.

  • Delaware Supreme Court upholds $300 million fee award we criticized; a $35,000/hour payday is nice if you can get it. [ABA Journal link roundup]

  • Complaint to Illinois Department of Human Rights that corporate executive's speech creates "hostile environment" in chain's restaurants. [Volokh]
  • A side-effect of the Obama administration's politicization of the Department of Justice is skepticism when they start investigations of corporations associated with owners critical of the administration. [Naked DC] Separately, Walter Olson looks at Sheldon Adelson's libel litigation record. [OL; Frankel]
  • Kimberly Craven appeals the error-ridden DC Circuit Cobell decision to the Supreme Court. I am no longer Ms. Craven's attorney, and can't comment, so please don't contact me looking for insight or explanations of why she appealed or requesting that she drop her appeal. [ICTMN; Native Sun News; cert petition @ Turtle Talk]
  • China provides the perfect example of ideal Keynesianism in action—and not working. [Cowen]
  • A new North Korean economic policy provides 0% marginal tax rates on farmers' surplus production, but people are skeptical of the reforms because of the lack of rule of law and the government's previous confiscations of reform-generated wealth. But you can ever so briefly complain that your marginal tax rate is higher than that of top North Korean farmers. [Daily NK]
  • Inspiring story of paralyzed Skadden M&A partner and Chicago Law grad. Also, never ski. [WSJ]

Around the web, March 13 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Who says Wal-Mart v. Dukes ends class actions—or even employment class actions? Certainly not Richard Posner. [McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch; Trask; Karlsgodt; Seyfarth Shaw; Baker Hostetler; WSJ Law Blog; earlier at POL]

  • Richard Epstein on safety nets: "These can cushion individuals from shock in the short run, but the balance is not sustainable in the long run. Too many people climb into the nets, leaving too few productive individuals to support them." [Hoover]
  • Charity auction for Friars Club doesn't deliver on the promised goods of Oscar tickets, so not only refunds purchasers their $27,000 purchase price, but offered them first-class roundtrip airfare and a luxury hotel stay. Not good enough, say plaintiffs, who hire BigLaw firm to sue for $250,000 in damages including "intentional infliction of emotional distress." [Am Law Daily]
  • Mazie Slater attempt to free ride on class action ex-partners litigated doesn't fly with New Jersey federal judge. [Lawyers USA]
  • EDNY magistrate shoots down defendant's request for plaintiff's log-in information for Facebook and other social network sites. Such an overbroad request and intrusion on privacy can deter plaintiffs from bringing legitimate actions, so this is a good ruling. But let's see judges recognize the problems caused by overbreadth in the other direction. [Turkewitz]
  • Coverage of Chevron/Ecuador $18 billion Lago Agrio judgment. Theodore Boutros notes that the ability of Ecaudorian President Rafael Correa to silence a critical newspaper with a criminal libel prosecution demonstrates the corrupt judiciary of Ecuador. [Boutros @ Forbes; Mastro video interview @ WSJ; California Lawyer]
  • For all the complaints about working conditions at Foxconn (which do seem very unpleasant), Chinese workers prefer it to other alternatives. [Atlantic]
  • The Landlord's Tale. [CJ]

New victims of the Rothstein Ponzi scheme - PointOfLaw Forum

Now-disbarred attorney and shanda-fur-die-goyim Scott Rothstein is in prison awaiting trial for defrauding investors in a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that told investors they were buying shares of future litigation settlements. Press attention has focused on light-hearted aspects: Rothstein regularly firing his attorneys in an effort to delay trial; Rothstein admitting in a deposition that he discouraged a marijuana-dealing scheme (but not the use of an escort service) in his office for fear it would draw attention to the Ponzi scheme. Rothstein funneled "payouts" to investors through his law firm's TD Bank account; he also faked a TD Bank website and put together a fake TD Bank office (with the help of, according to Rothstein, a bribed TD Bank vice president) to facilitate the scheme. This was, said one disgruntled investor, TD Bank's fault, and a Texas federal jury in Corpus Christi has awarded $67 million, over half of which is punitive damages, against the bank, which has not been charged criminally. But when it comes to assigning fault in the civil justice system, deep pockets are more important than culpability. It's not clear if Rothstein is telling the truth about the vice president, who denies ever receiving money from Rothstein, but the now-fired vice president's invocation of the Fifth Amendment 160 times surely made an impression on the jury, to the detriment of his ex-employer. A different set of investors is about to proceed in Florida state court on the same theory. [ABAJ; Bloomberg; Business Week; Sun-Sentinal]

Before Rothstein was caught, he was one of the larger abusers of SLAPP threats, which makes you wonder what other lawyers who threaten libel suits on a dime are hiding.

Agreements and disagreements - PointOfLaw Featured Discussion

Ted Frank

I'm surprised that Svorny is so unwilling to concede that educational malpractice liability is unquestionably a bad idea. There seems to be a fundamental disagreement between us about the transactions costs of the legal system. It's easy to think, as a theoretical matter, that legal adjudication is frictionless, but that leads to dramatic policy mistakes by courts, legislators, and regulators. (I've seen first-hand someone drag out a frivolous libel suit for two years without resolution of a straightforward legal issue.) I'm happy to agree to disagree about the merits of uncapping liability for educational malpractice, and let readers decide for themselves who has the grasp of the facts that better reflects the realities of legal-system transactions costs.

Svorny pushes her research on experience rating as demonstrating benefits to the system, but she draws the wrong conclusions from her data. There are high-risk doctors, to be sure, and low-risk doctors: why can't the surgeons be more like the pediatricians who never get sued? That sort of classification does not do much to protect good surgeons, however, since nearly all surgeons end up getting sued. And, sure enough, even Svorny's own numbers show that intra-practice experience rating doesn't make much difference: the Massachusetts insurer she looked at most closely charged 98.6% of physicians within the same 25% range, with only a tiny percentage of those getting any surcharges at all. (And even then, all she found was that the small percentage who are charged outside of that 25% range are being charged "surcharges" that sometimes reflect factors other than experience rating.) Little wonder: there does not seem to be any empirical evidence that previous claims experience predicts future claims experience once one controls for the riskiness of the practice. That's first-hand evidence of haphazardness: if medical malpractice were predictable, we'd see more effective experience rating. (Life insurance and car insurance certainly don't operate within a 25% band.) But Svorny again works with a binary metric: if it's not the case that insurers never experience rate (another strawman), then there isn't a problem with uncapped damages because insurers can always experience rate. She never asks why, if efficient experience rating is possible, it has so little effect on insurance rates.

I'm pleased to see that Svorny agrees with me that the medical malpractice legal system is not producing perfect results. I can agree with Svorny that we should look to reforms that reduce the error rate of the legal system.

What she has failed to recognize in her paper, however, is that non-economic damages caps can work to reduce the error rate of the legal system. Svorny considers only the false negatives, the cases where a cap might result in undercompensation; she never looks at the costs of the false positives, the cases where the lack of a cap results in overcompensation.

The error rate is not just the "11%" Svorny calculates in her most recent post. It's the uncompensated costs put on doctors when meritless malpractice suits are brought in the hopes of jackpot justice—another 29% of the cases. But that the other 60% of cases supposedly have merit (and, as we've seen, merit is often judged with hindsight bias, whether by lay or expert evaluators) does not mean that they're not also imposing erroneous costs. Even where an individual doctor commits malpractice, a shotgun complaint might bring in another dozen entities in the hopes of extorting a settlement. And the biggest cost of all comes from the outlier verdicts that caps are intended to address.

The problem is that the legal system is poorly situated to make judgment calls about complex medical decisions. Returning to the anesthesiologists again, even expert witnesses suffer from extraordinary hindsight bias when evaluating the quality of medical care: we can hardly be surprised when lay juries, encouraged by attorneys with an incentive to slant the evidence do not do any better. Uncapped economic damages present gigantic opportunities for injustice: John Edwards by himself won tens of millions of dollars in verdicts based on junk science. When non-economic damages are uncapped, a single outlier judgment can impose tremendous disproportionate costs that get spread across all doctors. Obstetricians or neurologists facing uncapped noneconomic damages (and the hospitals that employ them) are always at risk of an eight-digit award.

When damages are uncapped, obstetricians are playing a game of Russian roulette. If ten meritless cerebral palsy cases are brought, and jackpot-justice litigators can get a $20 million or more judgment when they win, a legal system that gets it right "only" 90% of the time will have disastrous consequences: the one error more than overwhelms the effect of the nine cases where the system got it right. A noneconomic damages cap limits the false-positive error rate of any single outlier jury. Such caps also reduce the incentive to bring low-merit/high-potential-damages cases that impose other costs on the system. Caps have benefits as well as costs. It's one thing to say that one's research shows that caps have a marginal cost that has previously been unconsidered (though the "unconsidered" part of that is questionable, as I argued about it with reform opponents six years ago); it's another to leap to the conclusion that therefore caps are always a bad idea when one admittedly hasn't evaluated the relative costs and benefits.

It's always tempting to oversell incremental improvements in data collection as having far-reaching policy implications. I've been critical of this problem before, including with papers Svorny relies upon. In this case it results in a non sequitur. The bottom-line conclusions of Svorny's paper are not supported by the data or the analysis.

Join the debate! Please send your questions and commentary via Twitter, #PoLdiscussion.

Around the web, September 20 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • The problem of overcriminalization in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: does the UK handle bribery cases better? [Economist; Reuters]
  • More on Oasis patent troll case. [Frankel; earlier]
  • The two "kindergarten"-snark judges are each spanked. [Texas Lawyer; Delaware Online; earlier]

  • Reason settles several meritless libel lawsuits brought against it for $0 after much procedural wrangling, but is still on the hook for the cost of defending itself, demonstrating the need for national anti-SLAPP law. [Sullum; Techdirt; Public Citizen; Public Citizen; Volokh; Bennett]
  • Parent threatened by government for allowing child to ride bicycle to school. [BikeWalk Tennessee via Alkon]

  • The need for better teacher evaluation metrics. [Washington Examiner]
  • What media bias? A telling slur on libertarianism by Adam Gopnik of the New York Times. [Boaz]
  • Ford ad slams competitors for their role in taking bailout money. [USNWR]

Abusive libel suits: one ends, another threatened - PointOfLaw Forum

Dan Snyder dismisses his libel suit against Washington City Paper over a story he hadn't read that dared to criticize him. Washington City Paper did not recover its attorneys' fees, but one presumes that the credible threat of doing so under anti-SLAPP laws helped Snyder come to the decision to dismiss the suit earlier rather than later; both sides claim victory.

Meanwhile, blogger Amy Alkon wrote about an intrusive TSA search; the TSA agent has demanded $500,000 to settle a potential libel action. Marc Randazza is on the case defending her First Amendment rights.

Around the web, August 11 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Exxon Mobil asks for en banc review of 2-1 DC Circuit decision with expansive view of Alien Tort Claims Act. [BLT; Doe v. Exxon Mobil petition for rehearing en banc]
  • Loser pays in action: Mattel's unsuccessful suit against competitor trying to take credit for competitor's successful Bratz dolls will now require it to pay other side's $137 million legal bill. [Volokh]
  • CJAC seeks disclosure of Orange County's contingency-fee arrangement with private law firm against Toyota over bogus sudden-acceleration theory. [BLD]
  • Million dollars in legal fees over a dispute about burger smells that was resolved with $90,000 ventilation system. [BLT]
  • Rescuers sue woman they saved from burning vehicle. [AP/law.com]
  • Dodd-Frank side effect: devastation of Congo. [NYT via Bader and OL]
  • "Havana Club" brand name not misleading because bottle label acknowledges that the rum is manufactured in Puerto Rico. [Bloomberg]
  • Watch what you say about lawyers: Public Citizen sued for writing about litigious lawyer's 100-page pro se complaint. [Levy @ CLP Blog]
  • Richard Epstein and John Yoo have a podcast. [Ricochet]
  • Colorful opinion: "Madder than mosquitos in a mannequin factory." [Olson]

Around the web, August 2 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • The problem of the perjury trap. [OL; NY Times; Tangled Webs]
  • When Congress passes vague criminal laws, it invites judicial activism. A surprising author. [Greenhouse]
  • South Texas plaintiffs' lawyer indicted under RICO for allegedly bribing now-indicted judge. [Monitor, U.S. v. Marchan indictment (Case No. 11-CR-594, S.D. Tex.)]

  • Prisoner Jerry Lee Bustos sues A&E for libel for calling him an Aryan Brotherhood gang member when all he did was conspire with the Aryan Brotherhood; case dismissed because statement was substantially true. [Bustos v. A&E (10th Cir. Jul. 19, 2011)]
  • USDA issues $90,463 fine against Missouri family for selling $4600 of rabbits. Family wanted to teach teenage son about business; boy, did he get a lesson. [Big Gov; update]
  • Houston judge tries to circumvent Texas Supreme Court ruling forbidding prosecution of child prostitutes. [Bennett]
  • Why is the government doing so little to end sexual assault in prisons? [Reason]
  • What media bias? Thirteen factual errors in Time magazine's cover story on the Constitution. Note which way all of them tilt. [Worthing @ Patterico]

  • Remember adverse possession in your first-year property class? Squatter tries to use it in the foreclosure mess in Houston. [KHOU]
  • What double jeopardy clause? More Casey Anthony hysteria. [petition; Popehat]

A Texas developer sued Carla Main and Encounter Books, an author and publisher respectively of a book criticizing the eminent domain practices he used—as well as Richard Epstein, who had the audacity to blurb the book. Fortunately, Texas law has procedural protections for victims of SLAPP suits, including interlocutory appeal when the trial court denies summary judgment, and an appellate court found there was no libel to be had. (This case was key in prompting Texas to pass anti-SLAPP legislation.) But there are dozens of other states where those who criticize the rich face tremendous risk of meritless libel suits to shut down their free speech rights, demonstrating the need for federal anti-SLAPP legislation. [Olson; Sullum @ Reason; IJ; Reporters' Committee; Dallas Observer; D Magazine; Main v. Royall (Tex. App. Jul. 25, 2011) (h/t W.C.)]

Yes, they're still talking about Caylee's Law - PointOfLaw Forum

I'd love to talk about class actions, the First Amendment implications of frivolous libel suits without anti-SLAPP protection, the myth of a pro-business Supreme Court, or even "Hot Coffee", but they just want to talk to me about Caylee's Law. Here's the Delaware version of the story, quoting me. And I'll be on News Radio 680 WPTF (North Carolina) at 10:06 AM to discuss the subject.

Courtney Love sued by her former lawyers - PointOfLaw Forum

An interesting quirk of libel law: which fact would make you more likely to think poorly of an attorney and refuse to hire them?

  • Courtney Love, who regularly makes over-the-top statements, criticized the lawyer, Rhonda Holmes, in an over-the-top tweet a year or two ago.
  • Rhonda Holmes sued her former client seeking punitive damages when the client criticized her, ensuring that millions of people would hear about a long-ago-forgotten tweet.

I vote for the latter. In the twenty-first century, any attorney who is unaware of the Streisand Effect is, in my opinion, committing legal malpractice and victimizing their client if they fail to warn their client about it. But many attorneys are just happy to take cash from a wealthy plaintiff to bring meritless litigation that makes their client worse off. Holmes's firm seems to be acting in its own behalf, so that's not the case here, but I certainly wouldn't hire any firm that shows such a lack of judgment; if nothing else, spending attorney time shaking down a mildly deep-pocketed former client suggests that these attorneys can't keep themselves busy in more productive ways. [Hollywood Reporter via ABAJ via Torts Prof]

Around the web, May 23 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • "Unions flexing their corporate-governance muscle" [Copland @ Examiner]
  • Randy Barnett on the med-mal reform bill and federalism. I don't understand why the bill doesn't simply condition a certain percentage of Medicare block grants on meaningful malpractice reform, which would resolve any constitutional problem, though it exposes the federalism problem caused by Medicare block grants. [Barnett @ Volokh; earlier @ POL]
  • Pincus has the better of the argument with Miller on Concepcion. [NYT; see also [DRI]
  • Judge Reinhardt Ninth Circuit decision asserts jurisdiction over Germany corporation for allegations involving actions in Argentina. [WLF]
  • "Deutsche Bank A Scapegoat For Bad Housing Policy" [Zywicki @ Forbes]
  • Speaking of attempts to squelch criticism through libel suits, Minnesota court dismisses doctor's suit against online critic; similar Illinois suit with different doctor pending. [On Point]
  • No new trial in $5.9M rollover case against BMW. [LNL]
  • Toyota sudden acceleration "economic loss" claims continue to survive motions to dismiss. [NLJ]
  • "Three Cups of Tea" faces consumer fraud class actions. [Trask; earlier @ OL]

The need for federal anti-SLAPP law - PointOfLaw Forum

Paul Alan Levy documents how Dan Snyder forum-shopped to find a jurisdiction where he could harass investigative journalists who criticized him without running into anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law. I have first-hand experience with a wealthy person trying to put himself above criticism through threatening and engaging in expensive meritless litigation, so if Public Citizen wants someone from across the aisle to support Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)'s proposed federal bill, they should contact me.

Doctors have recently discovered the use of SLAPP suits: recently-disciplined California cosmetic surgeon Usha Rajagopal has forum-shopped a defamation suit in Virginia; Minnesota neurologist David McKee is suing the family of a patient over at least one statement on a website that he admits in a deposition to be true.

Around the web, March 1 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Post-trial decision in Vivendi shareholder class-action applies Morrison to throw out most of the claims. [Trask]
  • Link roundup on Cobell fee-grab attempt. [Overlawyered; earlier]
  • Classmates.com is no more, but they still have a class action to deal with after the settlement was thrown out. [Paid Content; earlier]
  • Cato amicus challenges application of False Marking Statute. [Cato; earlier]
  • Government arguing against allowing amicus briefs in criminal cases. [Torts Prof]
  • Scott Greenfield agrees with me on the poorly-thought-out New York state court conflict-of-interest rules. [Simple Justice; earlier]
  • Texas "Judge Asks to Seal Own Depo in Libel Suit He Filed." [ABAJ]
  • Proto-blogger Mickey Kaus now at the Daily Caller. [Kausfiles]
  • Murder trial of the century, 1806 edition. [HistoryNet]
  • Hey, if it worked for the Huffington Post, we can search-engine optimize, too: Charlie Sheen Charlie Sheen Charlie Sheen says he'll sue CBS! [NY Times]

Around the web, January 11 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • More on the Demetrious Biller suit, including the arbitral opinion. [Corporate Counsel/law.com; earlier @ POL]
  • ADA amendments: bad for business? California small businesses getting sued would probably say yes. [Harned/McBride @ Fed Soc; SF Chronicle]
  • No tears shed for Henry Waxman losing his chairmanship. [Olson @ Cato]
  • "The Insider Trading Bread and Circus" [Silverglate @ Forbes]
  • Law schools are tournaments, not lotteries. [CHE]
  • Parents of deceased lesbian challenge validity of same-sex marriage for inheritance purposes. [ABA J]
  • Watch what you say about lawyers dept.: Kentucky plaintiffs' lawyer sues Twitterer over line "But she should have hired a reputable attorney!" Court dismisses: "It matters not if such opinion was wrong, uninformed or pernicious. His comments were, and are, constitutionally protected." It's nice when a court resolves something so straightforward in only two months. [Cincinnati Enquirer; Cincinnati Enquirer]

Arthur Wolk v. Olson - Third Circuit update - PointOfLaw Forum

As you may recall, the plaintiff in Wolk v. Olson immediately appealed the district court ruling dismissing his libel case. Plaintiff has asked the Third Circuit to certify questions of state law to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; defendant-appellees, through their attorneys White & Williams and the Center for Individual Rights have filed an opposition to that motion. The appellees' brief is due November 5; amicus briefs in support of appellees are due November 12.

President signs bill to restrict 'libel tourism' - PointOfLaw Forum

President Obama on Tuesday, Aug. 10, signed into law H.R. 2765, the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act, or the "SPEECH Act." As the House Committee report summarizes, the law is supposed to discourage plaintiffs from going to foreign courts in which it is easier to sue authors for libel, Britain being the most common example:

H.R. 2765 is intended to dissuade potential defamation plaintiffs from circumventing First Amendment protections by filing suit in foreign jurisdictions that lack similar protections. Specifically, the bill amends title 28 of the United States Code to add provisions to prevent U.S. courts from recognizing or enforcing a foreign defamation judgment when (1) such judgment is inconsistent with the First Amendment; (2) enforcement would be inconsistent with Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934, providing immunity for interactive computer services from suits based on content hosted by such services; or (3) the foreign court's assertion of personal jurisdiction over the defamation defendant is inconsistent with the due process standards of the United States Constitution. H.R. 2765 also contains a fee-shifting provision that allows a court to award a reasonable attorney's fee to a party that successfully resists recognition or enforcement of a foreign defamation judgment based on one of the grounds enumerated in the bill.

Publisher's Weekly reports the background: "Libel tourism came to international prominence in 2005, when Saudi billionaire Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz sued New York-based author Rachel Ehrenfeld in a British Court over her book Funding Evil. Even though the book was not published in the U.K., 23 copies purchased via the Internet provided Mahfouz with enough grounds to sue Ehrenfeld in England, where libel judgments are easier to obtain. Ehrenfeld refused to participate in the proceedings, was ordered to pay £10,000 and legal costs. In response, New York and five other states passed their own libel tourism laws."

From The Guardian blog (U.K.), "Obama seals off US journalists and authors from Britain's libel laws." See also earlier POL post.

Libel tourism, a hearing - PointOfLaw Forum

Next Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a hearing, "Are Foreign Libel Lawsuits Chilling Americans' First Amendment Rights?"

Testifying are Kurt A. Wimmer, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, and Bruce D. Brown, a partner at Baker Hostetler.

In January, the Center for International Media Assistance released a report, "Libel Tourism: Silencing the Press Through Transnational Legal Threats." CIMA also sponsored a panel discussion on Jan. 12, with Wimmer one of the panelists.

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