Patterico's Pontifications

3/28/2005

Calling All Jurors From the Schiavo Civil Litigation

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 11:44 pm

I’m just curious. Has anyone heard from the jurors who served on Michael Schiavo’s lawsuit — the one where he claimed he was going to spend the recovery rehabilitating Terri Schiavo?

I wonder what they would say about what he’s doing now.

If anyone knows one of them — or their cousin’s mom’s best friend — tell them we’d like to know what they think about this controversy.

A Good Whacking

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 11:13 pm

Jack Shafer whacks David Shaw. And deservedly so.

I have whacked Shaw once or twice (or thrice) myself. But I am happy to see Shafer pile on. Shaw deserves no less.

UPDATE: More whacking (and a roundup of other whacks) here.

Surprising Non-Ruling

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Court Decisions — Patterico @ 7:14 pm

I am very surprised at this. The Supreme Court has let stand a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that there is no “neutral reporting privilege” implicit in the First Amendment. In plain English, this means that you can be held liable for reporting false allegations, even if it is legitimate news that the accusation was made at all.

In other words, reporting that “Politician Jones said Politician Smith is a child molester” can lead to civil liability, if done with reckless disregard for the truth of the allegation about Politician Smith — even if it is undeniably true that Politician Jones made the accusation.

I would have thought that the mere fact that such an allegation is made is a legitimate news story, regardless of (or perhaps even because of) the lack of a factual basis for the allegation. Letting such a ruling stand has a significant chilling effect on speech. For example: if there is no such privilege, how can a newspaper report fully on a defamation suit, if it cannot republish the statements that give rise to the suit?

I’d like to see Eugene Volokh weigh in on this.

UPDATE: Some quick research appears to indicate that California courts have not yet decided whether the privilege exists in California. A famous Second Circuit case found such a privilege, so you New York journalists appear to be okay. (That’s not legal advice! I don’t give legal advice.) Surprisingly, many other jurisdictions have rejected it. In California, there appear to be some extremely limited statutory provisions in the Civil Code that don’t provide much solace.

This seems like it would have been a perfect issue for the Supreme Court to tackle.

I could be wrong about this; I’m no expert. Justin Levine, where are you when we need you?

My Letter Regarding the Disgraceful DeLay Story

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:48 am

I sent this letter to the L.A. Times this morning:

Recently, we saw a family’s private tragedy dragged into the national spotlight to make a cheap political point. Those involved should be deeply ashamed.

Congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case? No, that controversy was already very public when Congress stepped in, responding to entreaties from Schiavo’s parents. I refer instead to The Times’s disgraceful decision to run a front-page article about the death of Congressman Tom DeLay’s father (“DeLay’s Own Tragic Crossroads,” March 27).

There is no comparison between the withdrawal of life support from DeLay’s father and the forced starvation and dehydration of Terri Schiavo. DeLay’s family was unanimous about his father’s wishes. In stark contrast, Schiavo’s family is deeply divided over hers.

Schiavo’s mother, father, brother, and sister are all adamant that she would want to live — and they welcomed the involvement of Congress. I doubt that the members of DeLay’s family appreciated The Times’s intrusion into their personal lives.

The two situations could not be more different. No matter. It is a great opportunity for sneering cynics to take a cheap shot at Tom DeLay. Why let the facts get in the way?

If you feel similarly, you can write the L.A. Times at letters@latimes.com.


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