U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Palin Defamation Case Against NYT Dismissed with Prejudice

The defamation lawsuit filed in the federal Southern District Court of New York by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin against the New York Times has been dismissed.

Judge Jed Rakoff noted that Palin's case failed to adequately make a showing of actual malice to support the public figure defamation claim. Significantly, the case may be ripe for appeal to the Second Circuit because the dismissal was with prejudice as it came after an evidentiary hearing on the issue of malice.

But based on the opinion of the lower court, there may not be much wiggle room for reversal.

Details of the Case

This case stems from an opinion article posted in the New York Times after the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise. The piece originally associated a political mailer sent out by Palin to the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords. While Palin did send out a political mailer that identified political "targets" using crosshairs, clearly her rhetoric did not imply violence.

However, the opinion piece did more than just correlate Gifford's shooting with one of Palin's crosshairs, it directly linked the two. Additionally, the original piece incorrectly stated that there were faces of democratic opponents under the crosshairs in Palin's controversial mailer.

Quick Fixes Save NYT

While the piece inaccurately described Palin's mailer, correction were quickly issued by the Times editorial staff. First the fact that the crosshairs did not have faces underneath was corrected, then the link drawn between the shooting and mailer were removed. 

The quick corrections are what convinced Judge Rakoff that errors were not made with malice, but rather, were simply negligent at worst. Because of the finding that the inaccuracies did not rise to the level of malice, in addition to the Palin suing the wrong party (she did not file against the author, only the NYT), the case was dismissed with prejudice.

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