That column asserted there was an “overarching deal” in the 2016 election: “The quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russia foreign policy.”
Judge James E. d’Auguste, of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York Country dismissed the case, but denied a request by the Times for sanctions.
The Trump campaign can appeal the decision, but the “likelihood of success is slim,” given the facts, says David Ardia, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Ardia adds: “You can’t bring a libel case based on an opinion.”
D’Auguste dismissed the case based on all three grounds of the suit:
“First, while the complaint alleges that the terms used in the article, such as “deal” and “quid pro quo,” are defamatory and false, Mr. Frankel’s commentary in his article is nonactionable opinion,” d’Auguste writes.
He adds the overall context surrounding the article indicated that “what is being read ... is likely to be opinion, not fact.”
Second, the allegations were not about the plaintiff, “a necessary element in a defamation suit.”
Finally, the suit fails to present proof of actual malice. Even if Frankel’s commentary had been actionable, the complaint failed to establish reckless disregard for the truth.
The case was strenuously defended by the Times.
However, the danger is that in a time of shrinking newsrooms, smaller news organizations lack the resources to fight a case like this, Ardia adds.
This is especially concerning when the plaintiff is a lifelong litigant.
The Trump campaign had also filed defamation suits against CNN and The Washington Post. The CNN case was dismissed, while the WaPo case is still pending, the Times reports.