James Skyles On Defamation And The Law
According to its website, Skyles Law Group, LLC is “Pioneering in Internet Law, serving every client’s needs in Commercial Law, Real Estate, Non- Profit Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation.” Attorney James Skyles explores these legal frontiers in his “Ask A Cyber Lawyer” blog. As we reported today, Skyles is representing the Franklin Center in Brett Kimberlin’s R.I.C.O. lawsuit, so we were interested to look at his opinions on defamation law.
Mr. Skyles understands that media organizations (the Franklin Center calls itself “a nonprofit, online news organization”) can get a big story so wrong that it becomes actionable. When Adam Lanza blasted Sandy Hook with gunfire and some early reports speculated that he had help from his brother Ryan, Skyles was quick to put his legal services on offer if the innocent brother wanted to sue.
This man may have lost his father, his mother, and his brother today, along with the feeling of being associated with one of the worst cases of mass murder in history. His name has been broadcast as the perpetrator of a horrible crime at the same time. Above everything, he needs to have our sympathy and prayers. The media really screwed up big time today. There are several causes of action Mr. Lanza could have against the agencies that reported this blatantly irresponsible information. Among them, invasion of privacy- false light, and defamation. Mr. Lanza did not ask to be thrusted into the situation. He was put there by grossly negligent actions of several large news agencies.
The Franklin Center “thrusted” Mr. Kimberlin into a defamatory false light last year by airing proof-free claims that the activist was responsible for SWATing right wing bloggers. This grossly negligent and irresponsible reporting did not originate with the Franklin Center, but as Mr. Skyles wrote when blogging about the Communications Decency Act, ”in tort law, a publisher (anyone who prints or repeats the defamatory communication) of information has the same liability as the original speaker.” And while answering a reader’s email about third party impersonation, Mr. Skyles described legal remedies that sound just about right for Mr. Kimberlin:
One is the tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, or IIED. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress occurs when the Defendant intentionally or recklessly commits extreme and outrageous conduct which causes the plaintiff to suffer emotional distress (in some jurisdictions this action must be done in public). If you were induced by this person to commit some sort of act, such as send money, there are fraud actions which may be available as well.
Ali Akbar’s fake nonprofit organization has not only raised money on the defamation of Kimberlin, his employees have tried submitting perjury into his family court case that had nothing to do with them or their political opinions. Mr. Skyles claims expertise in nonprofit law, so we assume he understands this is the textbook definition of fraud and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. But whereas we might normally expect him to sympathize with Mr. Kimberlin, Skyles will be defending the Franklin Center’s participation in malicious defamation and fraud. We understand that an effective attorney must be able to argue both sides of an issue, but this particular pivot seems excessive to us.