One of the most famous and most cited defamation cases New York Times v. Sullivan was decided 50 years ago Sunday in 1964. This case was pivotal to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The Internet, Twitter, Facebook were a long way off when the Sullivan case began in 1960. It started when the NY Times published a civil rights group’s full-page ad, with the title ‘Heed Their Rising Voices,’ that described the brutal treatment of civil rights demonstrators in the South. The ad solicited funds to defend Martin Luther King, Jr. against an Alabama perjury indictment.
Prodded on by a local newspaper editorial urging all Alabamians to sue, a Montgomery, Alabama, city official named L.B. Sullivan claimed his reputation had been damaged by the ad’s errors, though neither he nor any other official was named in it. Under state law preceding the Supreme Court decision, Sullivan won a judgment of $500,000, and the NY Times faced millions more in other suits.
Sullivan ultimately lost in the Supreme Court. Justice William Brennan, writing for a unanimous court, acknowledged that “published errors can harm a person’s reputation. False statements are an inevitable part of the free debate that is fundamental to the American system of government and must be protected,” Brennan wrote. The only way to win would be to show that the false statement was “made knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth.” The decision freed news organizations to write about the civil rights movement without fear of lawsuits.
Since then the status of “public figure” has been extended to cover politicians, celebrities and people who are mentioned in the media as prominent in their field. The status of “member of the press” has been extended to cover bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers and anyone with a public web page. The only way one can win a defamation case today against a public figures would be to show that the person who wrote and published the statement publicly knew it was false before they posted it.
While I cited this case in the appeal of my defamation case my case goes far beyond this ruling. In my case the Plaintiffs did not show the elements of defamation at all. In order to show a cause for defamation these four elements must be proven, (1) the statement is a verifiable statement of fact, (2) is false or not substantially true, (3) is of and concerning Plaintiffs and (4) is capable of conveying a defamatory meaning about Plaintiffs.
In my case they had to prove that I made the statements. I didn’t make most of the statements. Some were made by Plaintiff herself, government agencies, others or the author was unknown.
They had to prove the statements were false. Every single statement was 100% the truth. They even admitted to these statements in court. They admitted that animals were breeding in the facility. Because the statements were all true, it would be impossible for them to have been made with malice.
They had to prove that the statements were about Plaintiffs. Quite a few were about Randy Turner, Plaintiffs’ attorney. They were not about Plaintiffs.
They had to prove that my statements caused them damages and they did indeed have verifiable damages. In court they admitted they had no proof that I caused anything. They also admitted they had no proof of any financial or other damages.
They had to prove they were not a public figure. In their opening statement Plaintiffs’ attorney Randy Turner stated that Amanda Lollar and Bat World Sanctuary have been in the press and in books many times. That proves they are a public figure.
On top of this most of the statements came from my privileged fair reports to authorities. They can never be considered defamation because they are privileged.
While I argued all these points and gave the court convincing physical evidence, the court ruled against me. I believe this was corruption on the part of the judges. I also believe that 86 year old retired Judge William Brigham is not all there. He was talking about knowing Mineral Wells and the Baker Hotel very well then went on to talk about a completely different building which is now a convalescent hospital.
Below are the documents for my appeal. It was submitted to the Second Court of Appeals in Texas September 10, 2013. I am still awaiting the opinion. It’s been seven months. I expect it any day based on a similar case in the Fifth Court of Appeals in Texas i.e. Carla Main v H Walker Royall which took seven months. Carla Main a lawyer, professor and writer won her appeal.
My Appellant’s appeal brief
Appellees’ reply brief
My Appellant’s reply to their reply brief
Amicus brief submitted on my behalf by Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy
Amicus brief submitted on my behalf by The Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary and Elephants in Crisis.org attorney David Casselman
Mary Cummins is a real estate appraiser and wildlife rehabilitator in Los Angeles, California. In 2010 Cummins reported Amanda Lollar of Bat World Sanctuary for animal cruelty, animal neglect, violations of the Animal Welfare Act, violations of Texas Parks & Wildlife regulations, violations of the Texas Veterinary Act and violations of the Texas Health Code. Amanda Lollar was investigated. Violations were found. Amanda Lollar lost her USDA permit due to violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Lollar was also reprimanded and given orders by Texas Wildlife & Parks and Texas Health Dept. Cummins was falsely sued for defamation in retaliation for Cummins reporting Lollar to authorities.
Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the USDA. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.
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