Judges Become Libel Plaintiffs

Judges are suing the news media for libel in big numbers—and winning some big verdicts.

Judges were plaintiffs in nearly 10 percent of the libel suits filed in 2005, Tony Mauro writes for Legal Times. Twenty-five judges sued for libel that year.

The Boston Herald recently lost its appeal of a libel verdict for articles claiming a Massachusetts judge made insensitive remarks about a rape victim. The newspaper had to pay $3.4 million for the award plus interest.

Illinois Chief Justice Robert Thomas won a $7 million verdict against a suburban Chicago newspaper for an opinion column suggesting politics influenced his handling of a case against a prosecutor. The award was later reduced to $4 million.

Baker & Hostetler in Washington, D.C., represented the newspapers in both cases. Partner Bruce Sanford says judges appear more willing to bring such suits. “We’re in a whole different climate now,” he says.

He’s fighting back with a federal civil rights suit that claims the suburban paper, the Kane County Chronicle, can’t get a fair hearing in its appeal.

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