Macomb County MI GOP Chair Sues Bloggers

On September 10th, Eartha Jane Melzer posted an article to The Michigan Messenger, a Center for Independent Media website, entitled Lose your house, lose your vote. Snarky Anderson has now updated an article about this on Blogging for Michigan about a lawsuit that has been filed.

According to Anderson, Melzer’s story ‘was quickly picked up by Detroit's local television stations and soon afterward, by the national cable networks’ and now, the Macomb County GOP Chair is suing the Center for Independent Media, The Michigan Messenger, Melzer and others. ( Macomb County Circuit Court, case number No. 2008-004340-CZ.)

According to James Stewart, the attorney representing the Center for Independent Media, “Carabelli is a ‘public figure’ within the meaning of New York Times v. Sullivan.

According to Anderson:

Stewart called the actual-malice standard an extremely difficult burden to carry. He said that he'd seen Meltzer's notes, and expressed confidence that he could successfully defend the suit. He added that Carabelli and the Michigan GOP had responded to the Messenger story "on a public stage," which was the proper venue for airing an issue such as this, and went on to express his hope that "cooler heads will prevail."

On Wednesday, Robert Cox, founder and president of the Media Bloggers Association (MBA) wrote an OpEd for the New York Daily News about the susceptibility of bloggers to litigation. The MBA has launched an education, legal and liability program to help bloggers address these issues. Together with NewsU and other partners, they have launched an online course, Online Media Law: The Basics for Bloggers and Other Online Publishers.

Is the lawsuit brought by the Macomb County GOP Chair a legitimate grievance, or is it a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("SLAPP"), aimed at creating a chilling effect on bloggers that would report on voting suppression activities? Does the Supreme Court decision, New York Times v. Sullivan. apply? Are you, as a blogger as informed and protected as you should be? Perhaps the MBA’s new program can you determine how well you are staying within the bounds of the law, and how safe you are from litigation.

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