I was wronged. All I wanted was a trial by jury, a right enshrined in Anglo-Saxon legal tradition in the Magna Carta 903 years ago.
Is this still America? No. America is dead.
For me personally the ruling necessarily means bankruptcy and/or being forced to leave the United States so I can continue to earn a living. This used to be the kind of thing that happened to journalists in other countries, not the U.S. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even get the ACLU behind me—because they don’t want to be seen as opposing the anti-SLAPP law.
A couple decades ago I wrote that the court system was the last functional branch of government, the final resting place of the proposition that injustice could be addressed even when the villain was powerful. Perhaps I was right then. It certainly isn’t true now.
Any American who trusts the court system is a fool.
The original January 18, 2019 post:
What it’s about: as Ted Rall saw it in 2016:
The Los Angeles Times summary as seen in today’s paper reporting the judgement:
Ted Rall, who drew cartoons and wrote blog posts for The Times for several years, filed suit in 2016. The newspaper, he alleged, had defamed him by publicly questioning the accuracy of a post he wrote for The Times’ OpinionLA blog.
The suit stemmed from a May 2015 piece accompanying one his cartoons, in which Rall criticized the Los Angeles Police Department’s crackdown on jaywalking and recalled his experience of getting ticketed for the offense more than a decade earlier.
The police department disputed Rall’s account and in a note to readers two months later, Nicholas Goldberg, editor of The Times’ editorial pages, said LAPD records, including an officer’s audiotape of the encounter, raised “serious questions” about the post’s accuracy.
“Rall’s future work,” Goldberg wrote, “will not appear in The Times.”
A month ago Ted gave an update:
Later in December Ted gave a depressing summary of the oral arguments on the case as heard on December 22, 2018 in the California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles.
Last summer the lower court in L.A. ruled against me on the anti-SLAPP, saying that even though I showed that I was truthful and the Times was not, I must pay $330,000 (as of then) in legal fees to the Times. I appealed, which is why I was in court last Thursday.
We knew it was going to be tough. Shortly beforehand the court issued a “tentative opinion” that indicated the Court of Appeals planned to buy Sager’s arguments lock, stock and barrel. Those arguments were lengthy and complicated but they could be summarized as: the First Amendment allows newspapers to publish anything they want, the truth doesn’t much matter and if you slap a veneer of officialdom on libel—in this case, the Times claimed, it was merely reporting on what the LAPD said about me—it becomes “privileged,” i.e. inactionable.
Ted has kept fans and supporters informed by regularly posting updates over the years.
Yesterday the courts ruled in favor of the Los Angeles Times.
Today Eugene Volokh at Reason.com offered a synopsis of the decision (with a link to the ruling).
The decision is long, but basically concludes:
[1.] Rall’s libel claim loses, because of the “fair report” defense—under that defense, fair and accurate reports of official proceedings, including police investigations, are categorically immune from libel liability. (This is a state-law defense, though in one form or another it exists in all the states; the California version is especially broad.) Any additional statements by the Times beyond their account of the police report were either closely linked to the report, or couldn’t be libelous because they did not “imply a provably false factual assertion”
[2.] Rall’s “blacklisting” statutory claim, brought under a California statute bans any employer from “by any misrepresentation prevent[ing] or attempt[ing] to prevent [a discharged] employee from obtaining employment,” loses for the same reason as his libel claim. “[A]side from any other defects, plaintiff’s blacklisting claim arises from the same source as his defamation claims—the Times articles—and is subject to the same limitations. (See Blatty v. New York Times Co. (1986) 42 Cal.3d 1033, 1043 [“the various limitations rooted in the First Amendment are applicable to all injurious falsehood claims and not solely to those labeled ‘defamation’ “].) As we have found, the Times articles were absolutely privileged. This eliminates plaintiff’s blacklisting claims along with his defamation claims.”
[3.] Rall’s wrongful discharge claim loses, because there’s no law forbidding a newspaper from firing employees (or contractors) based on things they say in their published material, or even based on their having offended government officials. “[E]ven if The Times had fired plaintiff ‘in retaliation for offending the police chief’—a claim that is belied by plaintiff’s own evidence that The Times published many of plaintiff’s cartoons criticizing the LAPD and Chief Beck—plaintiff has identified no constitutional, statutory or regulatory provision that would have been violated.”
The Metropolitan News Enterprise (self-described as a “daily newspaper focusing largely on law and the courts”) has a staff written article outlining the case and saying the judge’s ruling was correct. Headlined (and subhedded):
Judge Properly Granted Anti-SLAPP Motions In Black-Balled Blogger’s Suit Against Times
Grimes Says Newspaper’s Expressions of Doubt as to Truthfulness of Account Of Encounter With LAPD Officer Is Protected by ‘Fair Report’ Privilege
While Ted has not yet written a column about the recent decision he has given a brief response via Twitter where he hopes higher authorities will agree to hear the case.