Sumter County, Florida, Commissioners Defamation Lawsuit

I don’t usually discuss politics; and I’m not going to discuss politics in this post; but I do want to discuss just a tiny bit about the First Amendment.

Judging by news reports:

Sumter County commissioners to file defamation lawsuit against animal activist

Now, I have not seen the video in question. However, at least according to the article:
“County attorney Jennifer Rey said the video, posted by Karen Pauly-Gugliuzza of Leesburg, refers to commissioners as monsters, cold-hearted snakes and “dirty, rotten scoundrels.”
If that is the case, then there is a very uphill battle to prove defamation. Not only, as the article further notes,
“Defamation lawsuits are more difficult to win for public figures like the commissioners and they must prove actual malice”

But opinion and hyperbole are protected speech. As a general rule, only statements of provable fact give rise to defamation in this country and I rather doubt that a statement that someone is a “monster, snake and dirty rotten scoundrel” is a provable fact; it strikes me as an opinion, hyperbole and rhetoric.

I am not going to go into an extended discussion of First Amendment law; but I will point you to some posts by a first amendment lawyer who explains this sort of distinction far better than I could.

The Feckless Thuggery of Anthony Scaramucci’s Defamation Threat

Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels Files Questionable Defamation Suit Against Donald Trump In New York: Analysis

Donald Trump’s Lawyers Don’t Know Or Don’t Care What Defamation Is

All of which are worth reading.

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