Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Troll tracker case" settles

Joe Mullin reported that the Frenkel/Albritton defamation case settled before jury deliberations. The key factor was a ruling by the judge that the jurors would have to find "actual malice" on the part of Cisco/Frenkel, even though Albritton was not found to be a public figure. The judge found Frenkel's writing on "patent troll tracker" to be about an issue of public concern, the workings of the clerk at ED Texas.

In passing, the holding of New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 was: A State cannot, under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, award damages to a public official for defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct unless he proves "actual malice" -- that the statement was made with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.

Note also from findlaw: Where speech is directed at a person who is neither a public official nor a public figure, the case of Gertz v. Robert Welsh, Inc. (1974) and subsequent decisions have set forth different standards. The Court in Gertz determined that the actual malice standard established in New York Times v. Sullivan should not apply where speech concerns a private person.


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