Ahh, the sweet smell of victory. Not that I ever doubted it. But it is nice to see this over so quickly.
So. You remember that idiotic defamation case against me by New York orthopedist Michael Katz? He was the one that was called a liar by Justice Duane Hart over and over and over and over and over again. The one that dealt with his testimony during a medical-legal exam, where he said it was likely 10-20 minutes long but a surreptitiously made video showed that the actual examination part was only one minute and 56 seconds?
Yeah, that Dr. Katz.
Effective today, that suit has been chucked — that’s a legal term of art — by New York County Justice Cynthia Kern.
Why was it chucked? Well, it seems that reporting on what happened in a courtroom is fair game. We have those law thingies that protect us for that. Specifically, New York Civil Rights Law 74, which reads:
A civil action cannot be maintained against any person, firm or corporation, for the publication of a fair and true report of any judicial proceeding.
Oh, that law.
Citing to Dr. Katz’s own complaint, which sets forth ad nauseum all of the eviscerating comments Judge Hart made about Dr. Katz being a liar, Justice Kern dismissed the case for failing to state a claim. In other words, we accurately reported what transpired in court, that Justice Hart called him a liar, ergo it’s impossible to make a claim.
Dr. Katz also conceded that Justice Hart threatened to report him to the District Attorney to investigate perjury, the Office of Professional Medical Conduct to investigate action against his license and to the the Administrative Judge for potential civil contempt.
And when I use the word eviscerating above, I am quoting Justice Kern on page 3 of her decision. Katz Case Chucked
Specifically, Judge Kern held that I, and my co-blogger for those posts Samson Freundlich, were immune from suit because the comments we made here were “fair and true reports of Justice Hart’s findings and assertions made during the course of the proceedings.” (p. 9)
And I kinda liked this quote:
Indeed, a side by side comparison of the posts, specifically the statements identified by the plaintiffs in their complaint, with the proceedings transcripts…clearly reveal that Turkewitz and Freundlichs’s reports of the proceedings accurately reflect Justice Hart’s statements.
The court next addressed those statements that were not facts, but opinions. And you know where that goes, don’t you? Chucked. They are “nonactionable as they are constitutionally protected assertions of opinion.” (p. 10)
Two quirks to the opinion that might interest others: The court held that the standard for suing someone for comments on the Internet is higher than if the comments were made in a “physical official publication.” Because Internet.
Second, I thought I had a very strong case to have the lawyer and law firm sanctioned, since there was no colorable way they could succeed. Katz conceded in his very own complaint that Justice Hart made those lacerating comments about him. Yet the court, without discussion, simply denied my motion for sanctions. If Dr. Katz is dumb enough to appeal, I will press the point again.
All in all, every time an idiotic defamation case against a blogger gets tossed out, it’s a good day for free speech.
Now if only we could do something about our judiciary’s deep reluctance to sanction clearly frivolous lawsuits…