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Officer ‘Public Official’ For Purposes Of Defamation Lawsuit

In a case involving Officer Frank Fones of the Montgomery County Police Department, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals began its opinion by writing that “this is, at its core, an employment dispute that seeks an encore as a defamation claim.” Fones served as a canine officer for about twenty years. He was transferred out of that unit after a series of events involving his assigned police canine, Chip….

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The ‘Public Official’ Rule And Defamation Lawsuits

In 1964, the United States Supreme Court published a groundbreaking decision on the law of defamation. In New York Times v. Sullivan, the Court held that the free speech protections of the First Amendment meant that a “public official” could not file a defamation of character (i.e., libel or slander) lawsuit unless the official could prove that the defamatory statement was made with “malice.” Sullivan defined “malice” as the…

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The Difficulty Police Have In Suing For Defamation

Public safety employees, particularly law enforcement officers, face almost insurmountable obstacles in suing for defamation of character. Various court-created rules, including the “opinion” and “public official” rules, routinely block lawsuits from ever getting to a jury. Precisely such a thing recently happened in the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Officer Sam Cromity works for the Louisville Metro Police Department. On March 18, 2011, Cromity cited Terry Meiners on the Watterson…

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