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  1. #1
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    Default Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    My question involves defamation in the state of: Idaho

    Suppose Jake knows that Sam is crazy and loves to beat up lawyers. Jake hates Tom, who is a lawyer. One day, the three are at the same bus stop. Tom knows notices Sam, whom he realizes hates lawyers, but thinks he is safe since Sam does not know. Jake informs Sam that Tom is a lawyer. Sam then beats up Tom.

    Can Jake claim truth as a defense to any legal repercussion? Surely if someone told a crook where a home owner keeps a spare key, that would be illegal.

    Where is the line drawn? If Matthew anonymously gives a speech about a polarizing political topic, which his boss at work would fire him for if he knew, and then Sally broadcasts that it was Matthew who gave the speech, is Sally legally immune? What if Matthew was a whistleblower?

    If people are able to give out people's home address, name, or other info to strike fear into them and others who would speak out on controversial issues, that could cause a chilling effect against others exercising their freedom of speech. In this case, it giving the truth about someone's identity ever a tort or illegal? I read that reporters voluntarily do not publish the names of rape victims, but does that mean they could do so if they wanted to?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is Truth Ever Not a Defense to Free Speech

    The truth is a defense to defamation actions but it is not a defense of other torts or even criminal acts. Many of the situstions you describe have nothing to do with defamation. Defamation by definition is the publication of false statements

    But regarding the general question; it's not simply whether a statement is true or not but the intent of the act of publishing the fact that can cause the statement to be the basis of an action by the injured party.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Is Truth Ever Not a Defense to Free Speech

    Truth is a complete defense to the tort of defamation. As for whether a statement, true or not, might get the speaker into legal trouble depends very much on what is said, who said it, and the circumstances in which it is said. The free speech protection found in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is simply a guarantee against restraint of speech by the government. Note that the right of free speech even protects lies. But like all rights, the right to free speech is not absolute. The government may place certain restrictions on speech where it has a compelling interest to protect. The classic example is that is often used is that the government may make it illegal to shout “fire” in a crowded theater when, in fact, there is no fire because the resulting panic might cause significant injury or even death to the theater patrons as they scramble to get out.

    As to your first example, Jake informing Sam that Tom is a lawyer is not a crime. Sally telling Matthew’s boss that he gave the speech is not a crime and, if true, would not give Matthew any legal against against Sally if Matthew gets fired.

    Note that generally there is no law that protects your name, address, and phone number from disclosure by others; there are few circumstances in which that information is protected, but it is limited. Privacy rights in the U.S. are much more limited than most people seem to think it is. A newspaper may publish the name of rape victims if it wished; the right of freedom of the press and free speech enable the paper to do that. No state, so far as I am aware, has a law that tries to restrict a news outlet from doing that for that reason.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    Maybe malitious intent to damage ones charecter or harrassment

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    So, if someone is the next Roe vs Wade, an effective strategy by the state might be to leak the true name of Roe to some activists who send her name and address to everyone she knows, and many others she does not know. This then causes her and others like her fear so that they never sue again. All constitutionally protected speech.

    My question for the defendants then would be, "why did you publish this? What possible benefit could it have to society for them to know her name? Please give us a reason other than to cause her fear, harass her, and make others like her afraid to ever sue again." They then reply, "Nah, that was not our reason. We just felt like publishing it, just to exercise our free speech. Do you hate freedom or something?"

    So, the protection of this form of speech is a very effective tool for silencing lots of other speech that could be very important to public policy. Instead of debating the issue, just publish the name and address of the person proposing the issue. Silence them that way, letting them wonder if a militant 1% out there might come visit them later.


    I think we need a supreme court ruling that if speech serves no purpose other than to scare others from speaking, then it is not protected under the 1st amendment. Politicians would still be exempt from this protection, since we need to know where they stand on the issues. If a lay person does run for office years after being protected, there needs to be a way to access all those formerly protected records.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    So if I threatened to put my kids in their bedrooms unless they quit screaming it would be illegal?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    Quote Quoting MikeSmith321
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    I think we need a supreme court ruling that if speech serves no purpose other than to scare others from speaking, then it is not protected under the 1st amendment.
    No, we don’t and I would strongly oppose having that in the law. What you are saying is that the government then gets to decide what speech serves a legitimate purpose and what speech is only for the purpose of “scaring” someone else. That allows the government to control the content of speech based on its subjective view of the worth of the speech. That’s incredibly dangerous to freedom. It is ironic that you have made yourself out to be a strong defender of free speech in other threads when the speech that is being limited is yours, but then you have no problem restraining speech you think might be detrimental to you. I believe all speech, with the exception of those statements that can cause immediate harm to others, like incitement to instant riot, etc., ought to be protected, whether I like the statements made or not.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    Quote Quoting MikeSmith321
    View Post
    So, if someone is the next Roe vs Wade, an effective strategy by the state might be to leak the true name of Roe to some activists who send her name and address to everyone she knows, and many others she does not know. This then causes her and others like her fear so that they never sue again. All constitutionally protected speech.

    My question for the defendants then would be, "why did you publish this? What possible benefit could it have to society for them to know her name? Please give us a reason other than to cause her fear, harass her, and make others like her afraid to ever sue again." They then reply, "Nah, that was not our reason. We just felt like publishing it, just to exercise our free speech. Do you hate freedom or something?"

    So, the protection of this form of speech is a very effective tool for silencing lots of other speech that could be very important to public policy. Instead of debating the issue, just publish the name and address of the person proposing the issue. Silence them that way, letting them wonder if a militant 1% out there might come visit them later.


    I think we need a supreme court ruling that if speech serves no purpose other than to scare others from speaking, then it is not protected under the 1st amendment. Politicians would still be exempt from this protection, since we need to know where they stand on the issues. If a lay person does run for office years after being protected, there needs to be a way to access all those formerly protected records.
    Just stop...

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    So, did the college publish your name regarding kissing or some other sexual encounter with a person who reported it, and you are now feeling bullied? Or maybe the school disclosed something else about you that you did not want the public to know? As a result your grades dropped, so you dropped your classes? Now you want to sue the school.

    The board has been generous with you discussing all your hypothetical situations. Care to be more specific?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can You Sue for Defamation Over a True Statement

    Quote Quoting Cocoabean
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    So, did the college publish your name regarding kissing or some other sexual encounter with a person who reported it, and you are now feeling bullied? Or maybe the school disclosed something else about you that you did not want the public to know? As a result your grades dropped, so you dropped your classes? Now you want to sue the school.

    The board has been generous with you discussing all your hypothetical situations. Care to be more specific?
    *Like*

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