Tag Archives: First Amendment Law

The First Amendment Right To Be A Juggalo

I must confess no interest in attending Insane Clown Posse’s Gathering of the Juggalos, but that’s the beauty of America: if someone wants to paint their face like a clown and drink Faygo all night long, that’s their right. Or is it? On Friday, the Insane Clown Posse announced that they had hired counsel to investigate their designation as a “hybrid” gang by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Gang Intelligence Center's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, and they’ve set up a website asking for their fans to provide information if they’ve been stopped by federal law enforcement agents, or ... Continue Reading

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Does The Philly Fire Dept’s Social Media Policy Violate The First Amendment?

Earlier this week, the Philadelphia Fire Department — following in the footsteps of the Philadelphia Police Department — released a new social media policy that applies to their employees. (Policy here, Inquirer story here.) The policy is, in a word, “no.” The policy has a number of limits on the use of social media while firefighters are on the job, and on off-duty communication of threatening and harassing materials. Whether or not that’s the right policy, it’s rational, and connected to normal limitations on employee’s use of employer’s equipment and time on-the-job. But the Philly FD policy goes much further: ... Continue Reading

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Can Michael Mann Sue The National Review For Defamation Over Accusations Of Scientific Fraud?

[Update, October 23, 2012: The Blog of the Legal Times is reporting that Mann has filed his lawsuit (in D.C. state court), and they have a copy of the Complaint, which makes allegations along the lines I described below, i.e., that accusations of fraud in his profession constitute libel per se. D.C. has "anti-SLAPP" laws, so the merits of this case might be decided quite quickly.] The entire scientific community, save a dwindling number of attention-seeking contrarians, believes temperatures on Earth since 1950 have risen by a little under 1 degree Celsius as a result of humanity’s relentless burning of ... Continue Reading

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FunnyJunk v. The Oatmeal Threatened Lawsuit Going Nowhere

[Update: In what can only be described as self-immolation, FunnyJunk's lawyer, Charles Carreon, has sued The Oatmeal, Indiegogo, the National Wildlife Fund, and the American Cancer Society claiming the "BearLove" charity drive is not compliant with California law. He's asked for control of the funds plus attorney's fees. He also raises meritless Lanham Act and computer hacking claims. Popehat has the details on Carreon's lawsuit.] I love writing about lawsuits and I love reading The Oatmeal, so imagine my joy when I heard that The Oatmeal was threatened with "a federal lawsuit!" Hooray! Unfortunately, I doubt it's as much fun for ... Continue Reading

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Sandra Fluke Can Sue Rush Limbaugh For Defamation And IIED

Update: I spoke with Geraldo Rivera on 77 WABC about the issue (MP3 file here, segment starts at 13:00), and with LXBN TV, with the below video: The Philadelphia Daily News has an article today quoting me on the Sandra Fluke / Rush Limbaugh defamation scandal: Max Kennerly, a lawyer with The Beasley Firm in Center City, thinks Fluke "definitely" has a defamation case against Limbaugh if she chooses to pursue it. Limbaugh could argue that he was simply rendering an opinion protected by the First Amendment or, alternatively, that the statements would be seen as so outlandish that nobody would ... Continue Reading

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Will Mining Companies Really Sue Scientific Journals For Defamation?

[Update, March 6, 2012: The study was published and is available here. The blog at Nature magazine has some commentary.] A week ago, ScienceInsider (part of Science magazine) reported on lawyers for the mining industry sending a vaguely threatening letter to several scientific journals over the results of twenty-year diesel exhaust study: Editors with at least four research publications say they have received a letter advising them against "publication or other distribution" of data and draft documents. The warning, including a vague statement about "consequences" that could ensue if the advice is ignored, is signed by Henry Chajet, an attorney ... Continue Reading

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The Real Risks Of Writing A Legal Blog

Over at the North Carolina Law Blog, Jim Dedman, proprietor of Abnormal Use (and friend of this blog) writes about a perceived risk of writing a law blog: that your opponents may take the things you write and use them against you in court. I agree with Jim entirely that there isn’t much reason to worry about that, not least because of the low odds that you will actually say something your opponent could really use against you in court.  I believe in what I do as a lawyer and so my thoughts expressed on this blog are usually consistent with ... Continue Reading

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Anonymous Internet Defamation And Journalist Shield Laws

Via TechDirt, I learned this week of an interesting defamation case in Indiana which tests the boundaries of “journalistic shield” laws. As The Indiana Lawyer describes it: The Marion County case involves newspaper coverage of Jeffrey Miller, the former president and CEO of a non-profit youth education group known as Junior Achievement of Central Indiana. In March 2010, The Indianapolis Star published an article about an audit the organization was facing and a reader, known as “DownWithTheColts” posted a comment on the online story, saying the state attorney general should investigate Miller about missing money. Miller and his wife, Cynthia, filed a ... Continue Reading

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Coal Cares Hoax: Free Speech & Satire vs. Trademark Liability

It was quite funny, if you're into dark humor. Yesterday a group affiliated with the prankster Yes Men set up a "Coal Cares" website which, while falsely claiming affiliation with the very real coal company Peabody Coal, offered free children’s-themed asthma inhalers to any family living within a 200 mile radius of a coal plant. They then offered up such compelling facts in "favor" of coal as: Wind Kills Wind turbines can kill up to 70,000 birds per year, or 4.27 birds per turbine per year. Coal particulate pollution, on the other hand, kills fewer than 13,000 people per year. ... Continue Reading

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The Big Short Lawsuit: Subprime CDO Manager Takes A Calculated Legal Risk In Suing Michael Lewis

As I have written many times before on this blog, and as I know from my own experience, defamation lawsuits against major media outlets are no joke. Defamation law across the United States has been mostly settled for the past generation, and so most newspapers, television stations, publishing houses, and film production companies have editors and lawyers who know how to make sure they have just enough support for their allegations to fend off a defamation lawsuit. In my own cases, I have seen examples where a media outlet, in the course of "fact-checking" and editing an article, we will ... Continue Reading

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