Wednesday, May 04, 2011

TN: Defamation suits could chill speech in elections

Though they are not likely to succeed:
"Community leaders and lawyers say lawsuits tied to recent political campaigns could chill speech in future Tennessee elections.

A First Amendment expert, however, says such lawsuits are hard to win because the U.S. Supreme Court has created a precedent of protecting political speech.

Lawsuits related to Metro government’s only successful recall election in its history and the contentious 6th Congressional District Republican primary last year are still in the courts.

While they may have seemed like political sideshows during busy election cycles, experts say the consequences could be long term for candidates and campaigns in Tennessee."


Even defamation suits that lose can be pernicious if the person sued does not have much money to defend the charges. The old common-law rule that the loser pays all the legal costs of both parties would help stop frivolous lawsuits -- but that rule seems often not to be followed in the USA.

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