When Politicians Threaten to Sue One Another

Posted by Richard Lawson | Feb 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

Recently Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have threatened to sue one another for statements made during the Republican Primary season.  The threat of lawsuits between politicians makes me want to go a bit off topic.

Slander, Libel, and Defamation

First, to understand the law we need to understand the terms of art.   Slander is when a person is defamed verbally.  Libel is written defamation.  The word defamation refers to the general tort of damaging the good reputation of someone.

To begin with, in order to defame someone, the victim must have a good reputation.  For example, just about anything (truthful or not) can be told about a convicted child molester.  Even if technically defamed, a child molester would not suffer greater harm to their reputation because of their status as a convicted felon.

Our next analysis is whether the person who claims to be defamed is a public figure or a private person.  When a person is a private person, the standard to receive a judgment is whether their good name was damaged through the dishonest portrayal of another.  If the tortious actor knows what he is saying is false or acts with reckless disregard for the truth, the victim can sue.

For public figures, like the politicians mentioned above, the standard is that the speaker must have actual malicious intent. The reason is that public figures “invite attention and comment.”  Gertz v. Robert Welch Inc, 418 U.S. 323, 345 (1972). Of course, the truth is an absolute defense to a charge of defamation.

To our politician friends seeking to sue one another: poppycock. 

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Georgia DUI Defense Attorneys

At the Law Office of Richard S. Lawson, we have offices conveniently located throughout metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia. If we do not have a convenient office, we will come to you. We practice throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. If your case is in an area we do not serve, we will find you an attorney in your area free of charge. Our office is part of a State-wide network of Georgia DUI Lawyers. Contact us 24/7 for immediate legal help. Our attorneys are standing by. Your DUI Case will not defend itself. Your Best Georgia DUI Defense Begins Here!