By Lynn R. Mitchell An Alabama blogger has been ordered to pay $3.5 million in settlement after he falsely accused a campaign manager of having an affair with an attorney general candidate that resulted in a son. Described as one of the worst cases of cyber-bullying, the campaign manager, Jessica Medeiros Garrison who is a Birmingham lawyer, sued the blogger and won, noting, “The absolute and blatant disregard for the truth has to come with consequences” (see Alabama blogger ordered to pay $3.5 million in defamation lawsuit):
A Shelby County blogger, who spent five months in jail before agreeing to remove stories from his website about the son of a former governor, has now been ordered to pay $3.5 million in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former campaign manager for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. The blogger had written about an alleged affair between Strange and the campaign manager. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Donald Blankenship on Monday entered a default judgment against Roger Shuler and his website Legal Schnauzer for $1.5 million in compensatory and $2 million in punitive damages. The judge wrote that all the elements for the judgment were present, including that a false and defamatory statement was made.
Garrison, who works with the Republican Attorneys General Association, was adamant that “the comments were false and ‘were embarrassing, hurtful and degrading,’ ” and made it difficult for her to perform her job. This was not the first time this particular blogger, Roger Shuler, had run into trouble with his slanderous rumors:
Last year a Shelby County judge also issued a writ of arrest for Roger Shuler, author of the Legal Schnauzer blog regarding motion to revoke Shuler’s probation on his conviction on a misdemeanor resisting arrest charge. The motion states that Shuler failed to make payment of court ordered fees and fines and did not appear as ordered by the court. Shuler was charged with resisting arrest last fall when he was taken into custody on a contempt of court charge filed by judge after Shuler, at least initially, refused to remove stories he had written on Legal Schnauzer that Rob Riley, the son of the former governor, had an affair. Rob Riley had sued Shuler in October for libel and sought the injunction to force Shuler to remove the posts. The judge ordered Shuler to remove the post and ordered the blogger jailed for contempt when he didn’t do it immediately. Shuler remained in jail until the judge ordered his release in March after his wife removed certain stories from the blog. Shuler’s incarceration for contempt drew national attention from groups that claims Shuler’s First Amendment rights were violated. The ACLU and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed briefs on his behalf. Weeks after the posts were removed Rob Riley complained that a very similar website with Shuler’s posts had appeared. Shuler denied he had anything to do with the other website.
Shuler’s house was foreclosed on which led one of the attorneys for Garrison to wonder if she would be able to collect anything from the blogger:
Bill Baxley, one of Garrison’s attorneys, also said the ruling “speaks for itself.” He said he doubts his client will be able to collect any money from Shuler, who had his house foreclosed upon a year or so ago.
Joel Dillard, another attorney for Garrison, commented on the blogger, Shuler:
“Shuler’s statements about her were not just libelous, they were plucked from thin air, and were cyber-bullying of the worst order.”
This is a reminder that bloggers should be judicious and fair in writing, much as reporters are expected to behave. Otherwise, there may indeed be consequences.