First, David Milum, a "Forsyth County, Ga., political gadfly," had a libel verdict against him upheld by an appeals court. Mr. Milum had written about an attorney who'd handled (or not handled) a case for him. In his blog, Mr. Milum had accused attorney Rafe Banks III of "paying a local judge $25,000 'for the release of a drug dealer,' and also paying off a federal judge in Florida," according to Greg Land as published in Fulton County Daily Report. Mr. Milum fired Mr. Banks when they couldn't agree how to proceed on a case.
When Banks refused Milum's demands to return his fee, Milum began posting the allegations against the lawyer, taunting him with accusations of being a "drug dealer bribery mule" and daring him to do something about it, according to the opinion.Moral here: don't libel.
"Rafe Banks will never make one single move against me or this Web site," Milum gloated on the site, "because he knows that we have the witnesses."
Banks took the challenge and sued Milum for libel, winning a $50,000 judgment in Forsyth County Superior Court on Jan. 27, 2006. On Monday, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the decision in what Banks' attorney said is a still rare, but growing, sub-genre of litigation: libel suits against Web blog operators, or "bloggers."
But it doesn't always go that way. Up in Minnesota, a judge threw out a libel suit against a blogger. This case was slightly different in that the target was a "public figure" and thus the case was held, I think, to a higher standard. But, I'm not an attorney and don't know jack.
In the lawsuit filed in January 2006, public relations executive Blois Olson sued [Michael Brodkorb, a Republican operative who publishes the blog "Minnesota Democrats Exposed."] after he suggested that Olson criticized the congressional campaign of fellow Democrat Collen Rowley after she refused to hire Olson's New School Communications.I think, however, my earlier advice does still stand: don't libel.
Brodkorb, who cited an anonymous source, asked why Olson didn't disclose that when he criticized Rowely in the media.
Olson denied his firm sought the work, and his attorney has said Olson and New School had not sought or done campaign work since 1998....
In dismissing the case Thursday, Dakota County District Court Judge Timothy Blakely cited the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1964 libel decision, New York Times v. Sullivan, stating that public figures must prove malice or reckless disregard for the truth to win defamation claims.
Blakely ruled Olson fit the description of a public figure.
Another bit of counsel: don't kill someone and then blog about it, even if it is just on MySpace. Police accuse Tess Damm, 15, with killing her mother; Ms. Damm's boyfriend, Bryan Grove, 17, with allegedly helping. Well, actually, police allege that Mr. Grove did the bulk of the work.
But, what sets this apart from other children-kill-their-parents cases is that Mr. Grove and Ms. Damm wrote about it on their respective MySpace pages.
What is extraordinary about this case is that Tess and Bryan apparently documented their feelings in their MySpace.com blogs in the weeks before the murder and during the 25 days in which Linda Damm's body remained undiscovered.Whatever. That pretty much sums it up. I'm thinking that libel is better than murder, if you have to choose between the two.
Bryan Grove wrote poetry on his MySpace blog. For example, at 7:39 on the morning of Feb. 1, he apparently posted this: "Every time I feel you wrapped in my arms, I feel nothing can go wrong, every time we hold each others hands, I feel everything is so right..." The next evening, the night before the murder, this appeared: "Knives take my breath away... trapped inside my wake, despair? no, just another day of lifeless." Police say that when Bryan offered to murder Tess's mother, Tess didn't believe him — replying, "Whatever," according to the arrest affidavit. On Feb. 3, Bryan allegedly stabbed Linda Damm four times in the throat and once in the mouth.
Of course, there's good that comes from blogging. I enjoyed reading F.T. Rea's post at Slantblog about the recent gathering of Richmond bloggers. What an awesome thought: getting a real community from a virtual community. I think I'd heard somewhere about a Hampton Roads blogger's get-together, but I can't seem to find it anywhere.
What'd they do in Richmond? Well, they didn't libel anyone, at least at the gathering, and they didn't kill anyone, either.
The discussion ranged from what we all have in common to what to do next. The spirit of the meeting was informal and collegial. It was decided that the group will meet again next month, to continue discussing what undertakings we might pursue together. Unanimous agreement was reached over the importance of having inexpensive beer available at the next meeting, too, unless we can figure a way to make it free.Free beer. Anout the only thing better would be free doughnuts, from KKD, of course.