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Matt Davies being sued for $1 million

A failed GOP candidate is suing nine journalists for $1 million each and has named The Journal News editorial cartoonist Matt Davies as one of the nine. The suit alleges that the nine journalists “defamed his character, ruined his reputation and caused him emotional distress.”

Russell, who has run for Congress five times, including his latest candidacy, last month lost the GOP’s backing in his race against Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey.

According to the lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court, Russell challenged a variety of news accounts that called his views and writings racist. He accused the media, which he labeled the “liberal media,” of attacking and undermining the campaigns of “patriotic candidates.”

“It’s been reckless and it’s been false, and that’s why we’re filing this lawsuit,” he said.

The newspaper editor and vice president has called the suit “without merit.”

Community Comments

#1 Dave Stephens
October/7/2010
@ 2:40 pm

Well, are his writings racist or not?

#2 Stacy Curtis
October/7/2010
@ 4:38 pm

Yeah, good luck with that.

#3 Clay Jones
October/7/2010
@ 6:01 pm

Why would a lawyer want to take this case? Matt’s cartoon doesn’t even call him a racist (and legally, he can call him a racist). Matt’s toon is simply stating the candidate’s positions attract racists, and it’s satire at that.

The candidate should study the U.S. Supreme Court case Falwell Vs. Flynt, or at least see the movie.

#4 Stacy Curtis
October/7/2010
@ 11:01 pm

Why do lawyers take any case?
Lawyer’s fees.

#5 Jim Lavery
October/8/2010
@ 5:13 am

He’s suing the liberal media for being liberal? Next he’ll be suing alligators for eating their young.

#6 John Cole
October/8/2010
@ 7:14 am

It seems an increasing number of deeply flawed candidates – including “patriotic” (snicker) ones – are resorting to lawsuits against the media for reporting and commenting on those deep flaws. It’s as if simply losing an election is cause enough to file suit.

Truman’s adage, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen,” has been transmogrified to “if you can’t take the heat, then sue the appliances.”

#7 Tony Kinnard
October/8/2010
@ 7:22 am

Sore loser, much?

#8 Jeff Stanson
October/8/2010
@ 8:02 am

With the cartoon above as an example of why he’s suing, he better be proven in court to be racist in thought, form, or deed, or else he’ll win.

#9 John Auchter
October/8/2010
@ 8:15 am

But isn’t Russell just looking to government (albeit the judicial branch) for a bailout?

#10 Drew Beran
October/8/2010
@ 8:57 am

Jeff, kindly expand on your position. What specifically are you seeing in the above cartoon that makes you think there is grounds for a lawsuit? This will be a fun exercise in First Amendment law.

#11 Keith Brown
October/8/2010
@ 10:22 am

Wouldn’t the actual burden, if there is any, fall on those who chose to print the cartoon as opposed to who created it? Wasn’t it the act of “printing” the toon that caused the supposed damage?

#12 Kelly McNutt
October/8/2010
@ 10:30 am

“With the cartoon above as an example of why he?s suing, he better be proven in court to be racist in thought, form, or deed, or else he?ll win.”

I don’t think so, Jeff. A not-very-strenuous search brings you to Mr. Russell’s own words which might just prove that at least the cartoon is worthy needling.

“In the midst of this onslaught against our youth, parents need to be reminded that they have a natural obligation, as essential as providing food and shelter, to instill in their children an acceptance of appropriate ethnic boundaries for socialization and for marriage.”

http://www.toqonline.com/archives/v1n2/TOQv1n2Russell.pdf

That’s just one little passage. For an editorial cartoonist to show a KKK dude digging this kind of sentiment doesn’t strike me as defamatory.

#13 Steve Skelton
October/8/2010
@ 11:42 am

If anybody should be sued, it should be all these politicians running misleading and fact-skewed political ads. Its all fine and dandy to call names and slander your opponent, but when a cartoonist gets involved, well that’s grounds for a lawsuit.

#14 Steve Greenberg
October/8/2010
@ 11:43 am

Since it’s an opinion piece and Russell has run for Congress five times, I think Matt is safe for free speech about a public figure.

#15 Beth Cravens
October/8/2010
@ 12:08 pm

Well, he must be living in a different world because on my planet journalists and cartoonists don’t have $1 million. At any rate he’s spitting in the wind, it’ll never fly.

#16 Matt
October/8/2010
@ 5:28 pm

Is it defamatory to accuse someone of defaming you if they haven’t? I think there’s a joke hidden in there somewhere.

#17 Matt Fosh
October/8/2010
@ 5:35 pm

Is it defamatory to claim that someone has defamed you if they haven’t? Matt could counter-claim on this basis and Russell could then counter/counter claim that he has been defamed by Matt’s counter-claim against the original claim. Matt could then counter/counter/counter-claim… :o)

#18 Milt Priggee
October/8/2010
@ 6:32 pm

Matt should counter sue…grounds, frivolous suit. Otherwise these idiot politicians will simply continue to try and bleed newspapers with revenge suits.
Russell has absolutely NO grounds for any suit. Any editorial cartoon is a personal opinion piece and will judge as one.

One must remember to ask themselves can an opinion be wrong?

#19 Jeff Stanson
October/8/2010
@ 7:41 pm

When I made the statement ?With the cartoon above as an example of why he?s suing, he better be proven in court to be racist in thought, form, or deed, or else he?ll win?, I’m not saying this is grounds, etc, etc. I am speaking to what must be proven in a civil court in order to win a case. You can defend an editorial cartoonists’ rights all you want, but his rights are not what is in question here. How he choose to use those rights is what is in question. He will be called upon to prove the implications of his cartoon. If he can, he will win. If he can’t, it will be difficult for him to win.

#20 Clay Jones
October/8/2010
@ 10:38 pm

Jeff, satire is legal. Larry Flynt did not have to prove Jerry Falwell had sex with his mother in an outhouse to win his case.

Matt’s cartoon DOES NOT call the candidate a racist. It can be interpreted that way but it’s not what the cartoon says. The cartoon says racists are attracted to the guy’s positions. Matt doesn’t have to prove the guy’s a racist. If anything, the candidate has to prove Matt called him a racist and caused damage which will be tough to prove.

I don’t expect this case to make it to court. I predict the candidate will drop it.

#21 Kelly McNutt
October/9/2010
@ 8:39 am

Jeff Stanson: “He will be called upon to prove the implications of his cartoon. If he can, he will win. If he can?t, it will be difficult for him to win.”

I’m assuming that by “he” you mean Matt Davies, and no, he won’t be called upon to prove the implications of his cartoon. Russell will be called upon to prove defamation and damages, which will be difficult for him to prove. Again, the reporting (and cartoon) revolved around Russell’s own writings warning against interracial mixing. Implying in a cartoon that a racist might find that sentiment appealing is not defamation.

#22 Jeff Stanson
October/9/2010
@ 1:52 pm

Clay and Kelly, I’m afraid you don’t understand the “challenge” nature of this type of civil suit. Again, we are are not questioning the legality of satire, or the cartoonists’ legal right to draw with satire. In a way, it’s an awful lot like poker. The cartoonist made his bet with the cartoon in question, the candidate has “called” the bet by challenging with the lawsuit, and now the cartoonist must lay his cards on the table to prove that he does or doesn’t have the hand to win the bet (and no, I didn’t get my legal training from Maverick). If the cartoonist can show in court that the candidates’ writings are indisputably racist, then the cartoonist can win.

#23 Mike McKeenan
October/9/2010
@ 2:35 pm

I don’t understand why the burden would be on the cartoonists to prove anything.

#24 Dave Stephens
October/9/2010
@ 2:42 pm

Indisputably racist…?

Hmmmmm…. Civil lawsuits are TOUGH.

#25 Mike Peterson
October/9/2010
@ 3:16 pm

“I don?t understand why the burden would be on the cartoonists to prove anything.”

It’s not. This is nonsense. The plaintiff is a public figure and the accusations are clearly opinion and obviously within the normal realm of public commentary.

The only possible way he could win would be if the publisher chose to pay up to get him to shut up. That doesn’t happen in obvious, open-and-shut cases like this. The plaintiff is a nitwit and, if he has any money, may find himself paying the defendants’ court costs.

#26 chad robson
October/9/2010
@ 8:46 pm

Russel should realize that under the law Matt’s cartoons are his opinion and are protected under free speech by the first amendment for saying he got defamed when cleary the cartoon being sued over is Matt’s opinion of Russel and certain view of his. the only way Russel will win defamation if the paper settles just to have Russel go away.

#27 Ted Rall
October/10/2010
@ 12:20 pm

Russel doesn’t stand a chance of prevailing in court. If I were Matt, I wouldn’t worry. A judge will throw out this case before it gets far.

#28 Milt Priggee
October/11/2010
@ 10:12 am

In a democracy the only right you don’t have is… is to not be offended.

#29 David Apatoff
October/12/2010
@ 11:51 am

Jeff Stanson: ?He will be called upon to prove the implications of his cartoon. If he can, he will win. If he can?t, it will be difficult for him to win.?

As a lawyer, I was about to explain why Jeff doesn’t understand that the burden of proof is totally on Russell, not Davies, and that the law imposes impossible standards on Russell precisely to keep vengeful politicians from trying to put a chill on free speech. Russell doesn’t have a prayer of satisfying his prima facie case.

Then I read Mike Peterson’s summary, “The plaintiff is a nitwit,” and decided it was impossible to improve on that.

#30 Paul Fell
October/12/2010
@ 8:00 pm

Glad to hear David Apatoff chime in from a professional lawyer’s viewpoint. I recall being in a seminar on libel and slander lawsuits
and how they affect editorial cartoonists with my buddy Milt Priggee and KC Star Cartoonist Lee Judge speaking as experienced lawsuit victims.

The opinion of the professional legal panel was that in order for the plaintiff to win the case he/she had to prove that “any RATIONAL person would see the case as libel and/or slander from the plaintiff’s point of view”. Note the emphasis on “rational”. That’s why the majority of these cases never make it to first base.Generally, there is nothing rational about the person bringing the case before the court.

#31 Lawrence Rozner
October/12/2010
@ 10:51 pm

But I thought Republicans, like Russell, traditionally supported tort reform. If this wasn’t such a serious issue, the irony would be sweet.

#32 Gar Molloy
October/13/2010
@ 4:35 am

This is good publicity for Davies though, right?

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