Blois Olson’s suit against Michael Brodkorb has been tossed on a summary judgement.
And the leftybloggers who last year hopped about and screeched like poo-flinging howler monkeys at the notion that their arch-nemesis was getting his comeuppance?
As this is written?
[snarky crickets who need new material]
Oh, it’s not complete silence. Over at Norwegianity (the left’s one-stop shop for calm reasoning), MNob – a lawyer – has the goods. Or some goods. (And has them with immense speed. An emailer offline asks us to “note the speed with which [MNob] obtained the order. You can’t get court docs over the internet – you have to go down to the courthouse to obtain them. Meaning either MNob is an obsessed stalker of Brodkorb’s, or she has someone in the Dakota County court clerks office. I’m betting on both.”
[Brodkorb’s motion to dismiss] was granted primarily because Blois Olson stipulated that he (Olson) was a limited-purpose public figure. (Par. 2) As a public figure, under the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York Times v. Sullivan, Olson would have had to prove on this summary judgment motion that there is some admissible evidence that Brodkorb acted with actual malice. (Id.) The court found that Olson hadn’t done so. That is, Olson can’t prove that Brodkorb knew the statements to false at the time Brodkorb made them.
Now, I’m no lawyer, but I’ve spent a bit of time in court. I’ve also worked as a journalist, so I’ve had a bit of experience learning how defamation cases work.
As I understand it – lawyers, please help me out here – but a summary judgement generally only happens if a judge finds that a case is so utterly devoid of merit that it’d be a waste of the court’s time to pursue it at all. The rule of summary judgements, in fact, is “There is no genuine issue of material fact, and the movant is entitled judgment as a matter of law.” In other words, Olson brought no game, and the judge put the entire case out of its misery.
So – again, in my own deeply imperfect understanding of civil procedure – it’s not that Olson didn’t quiiiiiiite git ‘er done; it’s that nothing in any of his original filings convinced the judge that the case had even a smidgen of merit.
Nor could Olson prove that Brodkorb made a false statement with “reckless disregard” or with “serious doubts” as to its truth or falsity. Olson simply couldn’t reach the standard of proof for public figure defamation, something that is very difficult under the Sullivan standard.
True – public figures have a harder time of things in defamation cases. But again, MNob’s paragraph implies that there was a “day in court”, where Olson (or his attorneys) tried, and failed, to make the charge stick. No. It was a summary judgement; the judge ruled that there were no material facts at all, absolutely nothing that would justify having the case heard in court.
The court determined that the efforts Brodkorb made were sufficient to shield him: “Defendant did enough” to investigate the statements. (Par. 7)
That’s all Brodkorb did: “Enough.”
MNob recites this as if it damns Brodkorb in any way.
The Colts “did enough” to beat the Bears in the Super Bowl. There’s no quibbling about how much is “enough” – it’s an emotionless, non-shaded, black and white threshold.
The judge ruled that, since Olson is public enough, the evidence supporting his defamation case was of so little merit, under the laws governing these things (as opposed to the outrage of offended leftybloggers, or their impassioned yearning for justice) that it didn’t deserve to be heard in court.
MNob’s entire argument, essentially, is “the dog ate Blois’ homework!”.
We can expect Brodkorb to trumpet this very loudly, but given the fact that virtually ALL the evidence is not only subject to a protective order of the court, but an “Attorney’s Eyes Only” protective order, even he doesn’t know all of the evidence that was considered by the court. Nor does Blois Olson.
That is, indeed, possible.
And again, I’m no lawyer. But as I understand things, if the judge issued a summary judgement dismissing the case, and yet there was plenty of material fact that might have justified a trial, that’d be a reversible error that’d justify an appeal – something lower-court judges really don’t like. So I’m guessing – again, in my capacity as a goy whose legal experience is representing himself, once (and successfully) – that the judge has a pretty solid reason for doing the legal equivalent of tossing the case in the circular file.
Nonetheless, it’s pretty obvious that Brodkorb’s sources are the focus of the protective order, and the fact that he had several sources for the information came into play in the court’s decision. What’s fascinating here is that Brodkorb seeks to claim the protections that any journalist in Minnesota gets in being able to protect sources (“Hey — two different dudes told me”), and be free of liability for defamation when he adheres to the bare minimum of journalistic standards. But in posting things to his “personal blog,” he prints things that no journalist with an ounce of ethics would go near (unless they were quoting Brodkorb himself as some sort of credible source on issues of, say, gastrointestinal diseases).
Maybe, maybe not, but this is an utterly subjective judgement (“Is Brodkorb a good journalist?” – I’d say generally “yes”, leftybloggers will get kicked out of the club if they don’t chant “Tool Tool Tool Tool Tool” in rigid unison), that has nothing whatever to do with the demise of Blois Olson’s case.
It’s also important to point out that truth is always a defense in a defamation claim and that this court did not make a determination as to the truth or falsity of what Brodkorb said (Par. 8).
“Honest, everyone – the fish I caught was thiiiiiiiiis biiiiiiiiig!”
The reason the court did not make a determination was because there were no material facts justifying a trial! At all!
Rather, the court’s focus was on whether he said what he said with “reckless disregard.” That’s hardly a high standard – that the statements might have been utterly false, but Brodkorb did not know that when he said so.
The standard is what it is – but the fact is that the judge ruled that Blois Olson didn’t come close to showing anything like reckless disregard for the truth.
What does all this mean in the long run? Pick only on public figures? Pick on people who might not be public figures, but whose ego makes them stipulate to being limited purpose public figures? Only run with untruths that two different dudes said were true?
You mean like that whole “Minnesota Democrats Exposed is a paid GOP operation” bit?
No. What it means is “grow up”, and stop assuming the law means what you want it to, just because you reeeeeeeeeeeeeeallly want it to.
Learned Foot – an attorney himself – writes:
2) That’s why Flash, MNPooplius, MNMonitor et al haven’t posted anything yet today.
3) Never go to a blog run by a labor radical from Iowa for insightful legal analysis. Or any legal analysis for that matter.
I’m not a lawyer or anything, but…
(Disclosure: I’ve known Blois Olson for years. I disagree with him, natch – but I harbor absolutely no animus toward him at all. Of course, Brodkorb is a fellow NARN co-host).