Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Great Blog Lawsuit

Lawyer Richard Warman, who lost a lot of my support when I saw a film of him counselling a pie-throwing attack on an obviously insane British writer, is suing Ezra Levant, Kate McMillan, Kathy Shaidle, the National Post and the FreeDominion bloggers.
Here's the statment of claim.
This is a serious case.
If Levant et al can't prove Warman called Sen. Anne Cools a "nigger" and a "cunt" in an anonymous posting on a racist website, they lose $50,000 and costs.
If they can prove Warman made the post, Warman will be ruined as a lawyer and an activist.
It's not a lawsuit about Human Rights Commissions. They're peripheral to the issue, despite the bleats of the right-wingers.
Nor is it a fight over censorship, as I was orginally led to believe.
It's about being able to prove what you say and about the care you must take before you publish allegations that can wreck a person's life and career.
Free Dominion got the ball rolling by making the claim about Warman during the fight over the role of Human Rights Commissions as monitors/censors of journalists. If the claim is true, if Richard Warman did post the most viscious of insults on a web site to plant "evidence" and stir up shit, Free Dominion's post was an important piece of journalism.
But if the allegation is false, they went way over the line. So far, the only "evidence" is the testimony of a white supremacist who claims to know his way around computers.
The National Post will pick up the great bulk of the costs of this suit, unless the paper settles. The bloggers will need some financial help to handle their out-of-pocket costs.
For both sides, this is a winner-take-all.
If it defies the odds and goes to trial, it's going to be quite the show.

9 comments:

James Goneaux said...

All good points.

I think the main problem is that this could be basically unprovable. The HRC doesn't seem to operate under any sort of realistic corporate guidelines at all.

There doesn't seem to be any record of which HRC employee used what name, on which website, and when. From what I've read, the names used to troll websites could have been used by anyone at HRC at any time.

And the fact that the Privacy Commissioner is now investigating whether someone hacked into an innocent woman's internet access might open things up if found to be true.

Thiz 'n' Dat said...

Not involving an outright law suit, but still involving blatant pressure tactics in an attempt to silence one blogger:

http://thizndat.blogspot.com/2008/04/i-am-kathleen-freedom-of-speech.html

Ottawa Watch said...

Blogging holds all the risks of journalism but some people think it demands none of the professionalism.
So many people think journalism is an unskilled trade until they run into this kind of legal buzz saw.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the consequences to Levant. If, as a lawyer found being engaged in this type of behaviour, he'd be looking at disbarment if found guilty, no?

What blows me away about this case is that it wasn't a one-time screw-up. It was a series of links and comments and, considering that the parties involved received their libel notices in February, it seems they all had ample time to take steps to mitigate the damage. They apparently didn't.

No sympathy from me. You're right Mark, this isn't a free speech case, it's a very reasonable response from a man who has had some harmful things written about him, using the available tools of the law to defend himself. You'd think the conservatives would be all over that - oh, and they are when Stephen Harper uses it - but it's always a little different when they're on the receiving end.

bigcitylib said...

The stuff about hacking wifi also came from Marc Lemire, and it is almost certainly the same brand of bull as the claims re Cools. The fact that it was trumpeted as gods own truth through the National Post might actually be enough to trigger another lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

disbarment for Levant? You have to be kidding. Lawyers do much worse things without getting disbarred.

Anonymous said...

the stuff about hacking wifi happened to be true but don't let that stop you bigcityfool.

Luke Baggins said...

That link goes to the story in your other post about the doctor.

Oh, and I think blogging does not, in fact, require any professionalism. Unless by "professionalism" you mean that bloggers must refrain from defamation, then yeah, blogging requires that much "professionalism". Defamation is a crime and everyone is required to refrain from it. I guess we're all professionals. I'll fuckin drink to that! Here I was thinking I would never amount to anything.

Cameron Campbell said...

" anonymous said...
the stuff about hacking wifi happened to be true but don't let that stop you bigcityfool."

Yelling "fact" before a sentence, calling someone a name ("bigcityfool" ooh.. that must have taken hours to come up with) and then fleeing and offering up bugger all in the way of proof seems a touch dishonest...

There is an interesting set of posts about all of this here:

http://bouquetsofgray.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-there-is-room-for-doubt-about.html