Defamation Pro Se

Defamation Pro Se
Defamation Pro Se Means You Represent Yourself In A Defamation Lawsuit.

If you have been targeted by defamatory statements, you have the right to represent yourself at trial. In the legal community, this is known as proceeding “pro se.” If you choose to file your defamation lawsuit without an attorney’s help, you should follow these four steps.

Defamation Pro Se Step #1: Know What You Need to Prove

In every lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove a list of facts known as elements. In order to prepare your defamation case, you’ll need to be extremely familiar with the elements that apply to your defamation lawsuit. When you encounter a piece of evidence, you must immediately know which element of your case it proves.

Defamation is a broader term for two specific legal theories: libel and slander. For libel, the basic elements are: The defendant made a defamatory, or false and derogatory, statement; at least one person other than the defendant heard the statement; and the plaintiff was injured in some way. The basic elements of slander are virtually identical, but the statement must have been published in permanent form.

Defamation Pro Se Step #2: Gather Evidence

As time passes, memories fade and relevant documents disappear. As soon as you discover someone made harmful statements about you, start gathering and preserving evidence. Here are some of the investigative steps you should take:

  • Write down everything you remember about the case. Your memory deteriorates with every day that passes.
  • Contact any witnesses who might have information about the case. Ask them what they know and record their answers.
  • Save original documents, not copies. This is particularly important if the defamatory statements were published. If you cannot find an original, you can substitute a high-quality photocopy.

Defamation Pro Se Step #3: Research Defamation Law

Once you have gathered all of the relevant evidence, you should research defamation law until you completely understand how it applies to the facts of your case. Beyond knowing the elements of your suit, you need to master all the arguments your opponent might raise. The issues that you think are most important may not be relevant, and points you think are unimportant may determine the outcome of the case.

You can use free defamation law resources found on the Internet as a starting point, but you will need to gather specific information about the law as it has been interpreted by the courts in your jurisdiction. To do this, you will need to visit a local law library. Most courthouses have modest libraries that are open to the public; plan to spend many hours poring through treatises and court reports until you fully understand the law that governs your case so you can proceed with defamation pro se.

Defamation Pro Se Step #4: Master the Procedural Rules.

The parties to a lawsuit must follow a set of procedural rules. These rules are extremely complex and often span more than a thousand pages. Even though you do not have an attorney, you will be held responsible for following the rules of court. Many otherwise strong cases have been dismissed because a party ignored or failed to understand the rules.

Consider Consulting a Defamation Attorney

If you are concerned about your ability to complete all of these defamation pro se steps successfully, you should consult a defamation lawyer.

Online Defamation Differences Between UK and US Laws

London LibelAuthorities in the United Kingdom are eager to eradicate libel tourism and allow for a greater degree of Internet free speech, while at the same time providing ample opportunity for defamed individuals to have libelous content removed from the Web.

Current Online Defamation Laws In The United Kingdom

While free speech is just as important to Queen Elizabeth’s subjects as it is to U.S. Citizens, the U.K.’s Defamation Act of 1996 does little to uphold the ideal. Section I of the statute does provide a modicum of litigation protection for passive website operators, but the law says that operators can be held libel for any defamatory statements if notice was given and removal was refused. Since most website owners don’t have the legal IQ to determine the validity of a defamation claim, they just remove items at the first whiff of trouble.

Defamation Regulations In The United States

When it comes to defamation, section 230 of the United State’s Federal Communications Decency Act largely absolves website operators and hosting providers from fault. In the U.S., the law does not distinguish between selective and impartial online publishers; in other words, unless a website operator “develops” defamatory content, they don’t need to fear losing a defamation lawsuit on American soil.

Case Study: Shiamili v. The Real Estate Group Of New York

This year, an important online defamation case was heard by the New York Court of Appeals – Shiamili V. The Real Estate Group of New York. Shiamilli, the plaintiff and realty company owner, brought an Internet defamation lawsuit against Real Estate Group of New York principals who administered a publicly accessible blog.

The trouble began when a commenter with the handle “Ardor Realty Sucks” left a comment in a post thread that accused Shiamili of anti-Semitism, bigotry and employee mistreatment. Upon seeing the post, a site administrator (editor), moved the comment to its own thread and added a photo mash-up of Shiamili and Jesus with the caption, “King of the Token Jews.” The promoted post also allegedly bore the assertion “we are so not afraid.”

Shiamili drafted and posted a response on the thread and contacted the website operators asking them to remove what he considered to be defamatory material. The administrators refused Shiamili’s request, and he, in turn, filed an online defamation lawsuit. The defendants then moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, citing Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act.

Shiamili V. The Real Estate Group of New York was significant in that it was the first time that the New York Court of Appeals ruled on an Internet defamation claim. Choosing to adhere to the “national consensus,” the presiding judges ruled — in a 4-3 decision — to dismiss the case on the grounds that the administrators of the site did not “develop” the actual content in question, but instead, simply engaged in a bit editing.

There was, however, strong push-back amongst the panel of judges. “A reasonable reader,” the dissenting opinion argued, “viewing the heading and illustration might very well have concluded that the site editor was endorsing the truth of the appended facts.” In other words, several of the judges felt the editor’s promotion of the comment, and subsequent image and caption embellishments, constituted “development of content.”

But in a U.S. court of law, the majority wins; so the case was dismissed. In the United Kingdom, however, Shiamili would have most likely emerged as the victorious party.

The Future Of Libel Tourism

Due to the liberal nature of the United Kingdom’s libel statutes, in the past, many U.S. citizens have turned to UK courts when trying to win an online defamation lawsuit. A burden on the their legal system, however, officials in the European country are pushing to establish laws that dissuade foreigners from clogging up their courts with defamation cases that have little to do with UK subjects.

Need a attorney for an online defamation case? Aaron Kelly is an Internet lawyer well-versed in cyber-libel. He has a tremendous amount of experience dealing with online libel cases in both the United States and abroad.