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Afternoon Briefs: Judge tosses defamation suit by pardoned sheriff Arpaio; blogging law prof is sued

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Joe Arpaio. Photo from

Judge tosses Arpaio defamation suit claiming ‘leftist enmity’ constituted actual malice

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth of Washington, D.C., has tossed a defamation lawsuit filed by former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio against three publications. Lamberth said Arpaio failed to allege facts supporting actual malice. Arpaio’s suit claimed CNN and Rolling Stone had wrongly referred to Arpaio as a felon, although his conviction for criminal contempt was a misdemeanor. Arpaio said a HuffPost article wrongly reported that Arpaio had been sent to prison; President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August 2017 before Arpaio was sentenced. Arpaio had been found guilty of contempt for violating a court order to stop detaining citizens based only on a suspicion they were in the country illegally. Lamberth said Arpaio had alleged “leftist enmity” by the publications, but that allegation doesn’t satisfy the actual malice standard. (The Arizona Republic, the Oct. 31 decision)

Legal ethics blogger is sued for alleged defamation

A law professor who writes for the Legal Profession Blog has been sued for alleged defamation by lawyer John Paul Szymkowicz, who claimed that blog posts about his ethics case were “false, defamatory, public and vile personal attacks.” One of the blog posts was titled, “District of Columbia Court Absolves Attorneys of Horrific Elder Abuse Conflict.” The blogger, Georgetown Law professor Michael Frisch, did not comment when contacted by about the case. (, Nov. 5 lawsuit)

Judge overturns Trump administration’s ‘conscience’ rule

On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York overturned the Trump administration’s expanded “conscience” rule, which requires institutions receiving federal funds to allow their workers to refuse to provide care based on religious or moral grounds. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has cited a significant increase in complaints as its justification for the rule. But that claim was “factually untrue,” Engelmayer said. The judge ruled in three consolidated lawsuits, including a suit by a coalition of 23 state and local governments. (The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Nov. 6 decision via @ZoeTillman)

Texas court lowers death-row inmate’s sentence to life

Death-row inmate Bobby James Moore had his sentence reduced to life in prison Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court twice ruled that Texas courts used the wrong standards to evaluate his intellectual disability. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said its decision is required by the Supreme Court’s latest decision in February. Moore had been on death row for 39 years. (The Texas Tribune, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision)

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