counter statistics

Friday, March 09, 2007

Olson vs Brodkorb Lawsuit Ends with "Both Reputations Intact" States Blois Olson's Spokesperson

Well the long soap opera is over. The case is dismissed.

Michael Brodkorb stated he "stands by what I wrote". Michael also said that he is glad this case is dismissed so he can get on with his life. Blois Olson referred me to John Wodele. Wodele made the following points:

  • The citation of New York v Sullivan (1964) suggests that bloggers should take care that original posts use journalistic sourcing standards.
  • Lots of reporters are glad that Blois sued.

Wodele also stated that he thought since the case was dismissed, without determining whether the allegations by Brodkorb were factual that both Brodkorb and Olson emerge with reputations intact.

MN Observer at Norwegianity gives her opinion on the case:

Nonetheless, it's pretty obvious that Brodkorb’s sources are the focus of the protective order, and the fact that he had several sources for the information came into play in the court's decision. What’s fascinating here is that Brodkorb seeks to claim the protections that any journalist in Minnesota gets in being able to protect sources ("Hey -- two different dudes told me"), and be free of liability for defamation when he adheres to the bare minimum of journalistic standards. But in posting things to his "personal blog," he prints things that no journalist with an ounce of ethics would go near (unless they were quoting Brodkorb himself as some sort of credible source on issues of, say, gastrointestinal diseases).

It's also important to point out that truth is always a defense in a defamation claim and that this court did not make a determination as to the truth or falsity of what Brodkorb said (Par. 8). Rather, the court's focus was on whether he said what he said with "reckless disregard." That's hardly a high standard - that the statements might have been utterly false, but Brodkorb did not know that when he said so. It does not appear from the order that Brodkorb even tried to rely on a claim that what he said about Olson was true. In looking at the answer to the complaint (warning: pdf) that is posted on Brodkorb's site, Brodkorb never even asserted the affirmative defense of truth.

And as we listen to him thump his chest and proclaim victory, let's remember that even he didn't see all the evidence that went to the judge and that he didn’t use the most common defense to a defamation claim: that the offending statement was true.

Both Olson and Brodkorb have significant legal bills to pay.

I don't think either one can claim victory. There's not enough evidence in Brodkorb's post to show that he was telling the truth about Blois Olson. I'm sure Michael's sources for the Blois Olson story were Democrats, not Republicans. Republicans would not have the insider scoop on who the Rowley campaign hired, and who approached them.

Tim Nelson at the Pioneer Press does a good job on this story:

St. Paul-based public relations executive Blois Olson sued Brodkorb in January 2006. The suit centered on a Brodkorb blog posting suggesting Olson criticized a Democratic congressional contender because her campaign had rebuffed political services offered by one of Olson's associates.

In dismissing the suit Thursday, Dakota County District Court Judge Timothy Blakely cited a 1964 U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that public figures must prove malicious intent or reckless disregard for the truth to win defamation claims.

Blakely's ruling indicates that Olson, a Democratic political advisor and publisher of a prominent political newsletter, "Politics in Minnesota," would have had to meet that standard.

"You can't be surprised at the judgment, because it's a very, very difficult to overcome, as a public figure, the standard of actual malice," said spokesman John Wodele, to whom Olson deferred for comment. "But you can't just let something like this go."

Suits against bloggers are becoming more common, said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Arlington, Va.,-based Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press.

"They are showing that the ground rules for existing mass communication can be successfully applied to the Internet," she said. "The standards don't just apply to the mainstream media … but usually people don't go after bloggers because they tend to be loudmouths without any money."

Olson sued Brodkorb — at the time an anonymous blogger — for a Dec. 28, 2005, posting suggesting Hubert H. "Buck" Humphrey IV, the grandson of the late vice president and an employee of Blois' New School Communications firm, solicited business from former FBI agent Coleen Rowley's congressional campaign for New School and that Olson later publicly characterized the campaign as inept.

Last year, Olson told the Pioneer Press his firm's employees sometimes advise candidates, but do not accept campaigns as paying clients. He said at the time that he had "no idea" whether Humphrey sought paid work with the Rowley campaign but that Humphrey was not acting on behalf of the firm if he did.

In order to find the truth in this one, you'd have to talk with Buck Humphrey and Colleen Rowley. As I recall, at the time this was going on, Buck Humphrey made himself scarce. I'm not sure that at this point they want to get into this.

The Drama Queen is crowing.


Markh said...

* he yawns *

Besides Michael Brodkorp and Blois Olson (and their respective legal counsel, racking up billable hours), who exactly cared any more about this case?

They should have had Judge Judy work this one out. It would have taken less time, and been more fun.