(Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Supreme Court of New York Appellate Division (Second Department) has affirmed Westchester County Supreme Court Judge Sam D. Walker's dismissal of a defamation suit brought by James Russell, an unsuccessful 2010 candidate for the 18th District U.S. Congressional Seat, against journalists and politicos, the Courthouse News Service reports.
In Russell v. Davies, et al. (2012 New York Slip Op. 05507), Russell sought $1 million damages apiece from a half dozen journalists and three GOP party officials for comments they allegedly made about a 2001 essay Russell wrote for the Occidental Quarterly entitled "The Western Contribution to World History." The essay was assailed for its purported racist and anti-Semitic sentiments and prompted the Westchester County Republican Party to drop Russell from the ballot two months before the election. Specifically, Russell's essay criticized several recent Hollywood films that featured young white women involved in interracial relationships and cited T.S. Eliot's viewpoint that "reasons of race and culture combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable."
Judge Reinaldo Rivera's decision agreed with the defendants' argument that Russell could not prove malice and that their remarks were opinions that were not susceptible to a defamatory meaning. "In distinguishing between fact and opinion," Judge Rivera wrote, "the factors the court must consider are (1)whether the specific language has a precise meaning that is readily understood, (2)whether the statements are capable of being proven true or false, and (3)whether the context in which the statement appears signals to readers that the statement is likely to be opinion, not fact." Judge Rivera found the allegedly defamatory statements were opinions and that the defendants fully disclosed the facts supporting those opinions through express reference to Russell's essay.