Tuesday, July 24, 2012

UPDATE: Sherrod Defamation Claim Moves Forward

English: Shirley Sherrod, a Georgia USDA emplo... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)Shirley Sherrod, former U.S. Dept. of Agriculture director for rural development, is getting closer to having her day in court.

The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied the plaintiff's motion to affirm the trial judge's denial of a motion to dismiss Sherrod's defamation suit against the late conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Breitbart, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Web site (www.rcfp.org). The appellate court referred defendants' motion to dismiss to the merits panel assigned to the case. A year ago, United States District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Richard J. Leon, in Sherrod v. Breitbart et al. (Case No. 00015711), said defendants Breitbart, Lawrence O'Connor and their BigGovernment.com Web site could not rely on the District of Columbia's anti-SLAPP law ("Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation") [D.C. Law 18-0351]. (See "TUOL" post 8/1/11.)

Sherrod claims she was defamed by a YouTube video of a speech she delivered that she alleges was unfairly edited by the defendants to portray her as a racist. Her attorneys argue that the D.C. anti-SLAPP measure is inapplicable in federal court. The Court of Appeals ruling said the merits of the parties' opposing positions are not dispositive and do not warrant dismissal of the suit at the present juncture of the case.

The appellate court also refused to consolidate Sherrod's action with another defamation suit before the court that involves an anti-SLAPP defense.

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