Block on Trump's Asylum Ban Upheld by Supreme Court
Joe Arpaio -- the sheriff most famous for being convicted and then pardoned -- is suing the New York Times for libel.
The former Arizona sheriff says the newspaper has ruined his chances of winning political office. The suit is based on a Times opinion piece about Arpaio's failed run for the U.S. Senate.
The headline said his loss was "a fitting end to the public life of a truly sadistic man." Of course, Arpaio's public life is not really over because he's making his own headlines.
"Truly Sadistic Man"
Although truth is a complete defense to libel, it may be hard for the Times to establish Arpaio was "truly" sadistic. He was convicted of contempt for ignoring a court order, and that sounds more like he was masochistic.
Opinion is a qualified defense, which could apply to a Times editorial so long as it didn't assert false statements as fact. In the contempt case, the judge found that Arpaio deliberately targeted Latino drivers -- so the defense might work.
Truth and opinion defenses will be issues for a court, not bloggers and reporters. But everybody knows New York Times v. Sullivan.
Hello, public figure, Mr. Arpaio? "Actual malice" still means something, but there's something else to consider.
Arpaio wants $147.5 million in damages, plus attorney's fees. That's a lot of lost reputation for a convicted sheriff.
At 86, he wouldn't have made that much money even if he had won the election. Probably.