Tennessee Appellate Court Dismisses Judge's Defamation Claims; Allows False Light Issue to Proceed

Corrected: A Tennessee judge, the subject of television news broadcasts that the judge said suggested he may have lied to the Justice Department in regards to a Mental Health Court grant and suggested he could be facing an ethics investigation, was not defamed by the pieces, the state appellate court recently found. However the stories may have presented him in a false light.

The case involves 2011 NewsChannel 5 stories questioning why Daniel Eisenstein, presiding judge of Davidson County’s General Sessions Court, hired an unlicensed psychologist to work and treat offenders in the county’s mental health court, the Tennessean reports.

The opinion notes that Eisenstein did not ask for disbursement of Justice Department funds after he discovered that the psychologist was unlicensed.

Also, it mentions that reporter Phil Williams stated that Eisenstein “had nothing to say” about the allegations, with footage of Williams following him to his car. Although the broadcast noted that Eisenstein’s lawyer provided the station with information, the footage of Eisenstein could indicate that he was “uncooperative or evasive,” the court wrote.

“He knew very well that the judge in fact had a lot to say about it,” Bob Delaney, Eisenstein’s attorney, told the Tennessean.

Previously, a trial court dismissed Eisenstein’s claims on the basis he was a public figure. Both sides told the Tennessean that they plan to appeal.

Last updated on Aug. 13 to state that NewsChannel 5 did mention in a broadcast information Eisenstein’s lawyers provided the station.

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