Sarah Palin lost her bid for a new trial in her libel case against The New York Times on Tuesday, with a judge ruling that she had failed to introduce “even a speck” of evidence necessary to prove the newspaper had defamed her in a 2017 editorial.
The written decision by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of U.S. District Court said that while mistakes were made as editors rushed to meet deadlines, “a mistake is not enough to win if it was not motivated by actual malice.”
Actual malice is the legal bar set by the Supreme Court that a public figure like Ms. Palin needs to prove to win a defamation case. That would mean that The Times either knew it was publishing false information or recklessly disregarded evidence despite harboring doubts about the truth of what it published.
“The striking thing about the trial here was that Palin, for all her earlier assertions, could not in the end introduce even a speck of such evidence,” Judge Rakoff wrote. “Palin’s motion is hereby denied in its entirety.”
Lawyers for Ms. Palin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We are pleased to see the court’s decision, and remain confident that the judge and jury decided the case fairly and correctly,” said Charlie Stadtlander, a spokesman for The Times.
The libel suit by Ms. Palin, a former Republican vice-presidential candidate and governor of Alaska, focused on an editorial that falsely linked her campaign rhetoric to a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona. The Times corrected the editorial the morning after it was published.
Ms. Palin asserted that the editorial had been damaging to her reputation and career. Lawyers for The Times said that it was an “honest mistake” and that there was never any intention to harm Ms. Palin.
The trial came at a moment when people who believe journalists should be held liable for getting something wrong have been pushing to have the Supreme Court reconsider the issue. The current standard of libel was established by the 1964 case The New York Times Company v. Sullivan.
The end of the trial was not without drama. While jury deliberations were underway on Feb. 14, Judge Rakoff announced that he intended to dismiss the lawsuit — even if the jury ruled in Ms. Palin’s favor — because she had failed to show that The Times acted out of actual malice. The following day, the jury rejected Ms. Palin’s lawsuit.
It was later revealed that several jurors had learned of Judge Rakoff’s decision while they were still deliberating, thanks to push notifications on their cellphones. But in a subsequent order, Judge Rakoff said several jurors had told the court’s law clerk that the notifications “had not affected them in any way or played any role whatever in their deliberations.”
Ms. Palin’s lawyers cited the timing of Judge Rakoff’s announcement as one reason that a new trial should be held. Ms. Palin can appeal, but appeals courts tend to be deferential to jury decisions.
In April, Ms. Palin announced that she would be running for Congress in Alaska, in a return to national politics. She will join a crowded field of nearly 40 candidates to fill the House seat left vacant by Representative Don Young, who died in March.
Source: NY Times