It must be that time of week. Yesterday I was contacted by an attorney for the Myers for Congress campaign threatening to sue me over Tyrion's post about Woody Myers history as a health insurance industry insider.
While the post was also published on Tyrion's personal blog and BlueIndiana, I apparently have the only blog that warrants legal action; neither of those blogs were contacted by the Myers campaign. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Woody!
Subject: Voicemail follow-up
Date: May 1, 2008 6:26:21 PM GMT-04:00
My name is Justin Leverton, and I am an attorney for Myers for Congress 2008 committee and Dr. Woodrow A. Myers, Jr. M.D. Per my voicemail to you, it has come to our attention that an individual by the name of Tyrion Lannister is publishing defamatory comments on your website http://indiana.bilerico.com/. Dr. Myers has an impeccable, exemplary reputation which we will not allow to be tarnished by defamatory statements. Therefore, please provide us with the following information:
(i) All contact information for the individual(s) posting under the name Tyrion Lannister including without limitation his/her name, address, email address, and phone number; AND
(ii) The IP Address(es) for the individual(s) posting under the name Tyrion Lannister.
Failure to provide the above information before 11:00am EST tomorrow will force us to bring immediate legal action against you and your business to obtain this information. I look forward to your diligent response.
Justin W. Leverton
Bose McKinney & Evans LLP
Apparently Mr. Leverton missed my last response to an attorney threatening to sue me over Tyrion's super secret identity. If he had, he'd know my short answer.
Long answer (and more correspondence from our intrepid solicitor) after the jump.
I wrote Mr. Leverton back and asked him what Tyrion had written that the Myers campaign objected to:
Which parts does the Woody Myers for Congress campaign object to? What are you considering defamatory? I see nothing in any of Tyrion's posts that would possibly be considered defamatory.
Mr. Leverton replied:
That is not relevant. Either provide us with the information we requested in my previous email or we will see you in court tomorrow afternoon. It is your choice.
So let me see if I have this right... A public figure - Woody Myers - objects to something Tyrion wrote. He wants me to give him Tyrion's information because of it. He's not willing to tell me what it is that he actually objects to. I'm just supposed to hand over private information because he objects to... something.
That's so vague any judge would throw it out and Mr. Leverton knows it. I have to have a chance to rectify any possible situation. With no remedy possible since he's not willing to tell me what it is he objects to, I can't make any remedies; it's impossible. Therefore, threatening that I should give the Myers for Congress campaign private business information just because seems highly idiotic.
Allow me to point the Myers campaign to this webpage on defamation, libel and slander law. I may just be a blogger instead of a highly paid lawyer, but I was able to quickly find these clips (emphasis mine).
The most important defense to an action for defamation is "truth", which is an absolute defense to an action for defamation.
A defense recognized in most jurisdictions is "opinion". If the person makes a statement of opinion as opposed to fact, the statement may not support a cause of action for defamation. Whether a statement is viewed as an expression of fact or opinion can depend upon context - that is, whether or not the person making the statement would be perceived by the community as being in a position to know whether or not it is true. If your employer calls you a pathological liar, it is far less likely to be regarded as opinion than if such a statement is made by somebody you just met...
A defense similar to opinion is "fair comment on a matter of public interest". If the mayor of a town is involved in a corruption scandal, expressing the opinion that you believe the allegations are true is not likely to support a cause of action for defamation.
Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1964 Case, New York Times v Sullivan, where a public figure attempts to bring an action for defamation, the public figure must prove an additional element: That the statement was made with "actual malice". In translation, that means that the person making the statement knew the statement to be false, or issued the statement with reckless disregard as to its truth.
Not only is Woody Myers a public figure, but the Myers campaign attorneys can't point out any facts they see as defamation. Tyrion's opinion is protected by the 1st Amendment - the amendment which has protected political speech since the birth of this nation. There is clearly no cause for legal action.
To paraphrase my last attorney brush off, Mr. Leverton can blunder and buss all day long if he likes, but the most he can do is subpoena me for the tiny bit of information that I have about Tyrion's identity. Here, I'll share it with him now just as I did before...
Tyrion has never told me his real name; I didn't ask for it. His personal blog is http://indytyrion.blogspot.com. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Woody's feud is with Tyrion and not with me. Please keep it that way and stop sending me e-mail threats, Mr. Leverton. I'm not scared of bullies and I'm not scared of Woody Myers or his attack dog attorneys.