First Amendment

PBS Prevails in Defamation Case

 

In 2014, PBS affiliate WUCF-TV in Orlando, Florida aired a hard-hitting public affairs interview focusing attention on the topic of human slavery in the United States. In the interview, a former prostitute detailed her harrowing experience and alleged that she had been forced into the sex trade by a man now serving a 30-year federal sentence for sex trafficking.

In 2016, the convicted sex-trafficker filed a civil suit claiming that PBS’s airing of the interview defamed him.  Lars Liebeler P.C. immediately moved to dismiss the action because the trafficker’s reputation was so badly damaged as a result of his sex-trafficking conviction that he should deemed a “libel-proof plaintiff.” Liebeler also argued that the suit was barred by Florida’s Anti-SLAPP law. Many jurisdictions, including Florida, have adopted Anti-SLAPP laws in recent years to strengthen First Amendment protections and curb the ever-growing tide of suits seeking to deter public comment on matters of societal importance.

On January 18, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge James Cohn ruled in favor of PBS and dismissed the defamation action. Davis v. McKenzie, et al., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183519 (final judgment: 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9735).

 

Lars Liebeler P.C. handles First Amendment and other Constitutional cases in federal courts around the country.