"After 25 years in the business I can tell you, and Ken now knows first hand,
that there is no such thing as "justice." Some judges are merely
politicians in robes."
The opinion of a veteran SF attorney after the judgement against Stacey McCahan was overturned.
"Resort to epithets or personal abuse is not in any proper sense communication of information or opinion safeguarded by the Constitution . . ."
The Supreme Court of the United States
March 31, 1998
To people who have been misled by superficial and inaccurate media accounts into thinking my libel lawsuit againt Stacey McCahan had anything to do with free speech on the Internet:
There are laws on the books to defend private figures from malicious slander especially from the representatives of large institutions.
Contrary to the public relations campaign claims of McCahan's attorney, he barely mentioned the First Ammendment in court as a defense for her behavior. Instead he used a case in which the Regents of the Univ. of California escaped a libel judgement for calling two student protestors "dangerous criminals" when they were not.
The Regents' attorney argued that because the students had manned a card table that distributed flyers they were "public figures" and therefore not entitled to the protection against defamation enjoyed by private individuals.
This was not a free speech case. This was a "can a political operative engage in a smear campaign against individuals and get away with it?" case.
At the time Ms. McCahan began her online smear campaign against me, she was an operative of the press department of the mayor's office (her own admission). She did not go on the July ride and instead stayed in Justin Herman Plaza where she hung out with a member of the mayor's PR office and fed negative comments about the riders to the press posing as a "witness." Her personal attacks on me and this site began as soon as I posted information contrary to the mayor's and media's version of events on July 25th.
Contrary to her lawyers misrepresentations which were published uncritically by the news media, there was no "flame war" preceding her defamation and I can prove it by directing those who are interested in the matter to the Critical Mass archive. I sued her because she was abusive, she was engaging in defamation which private citizens are entitled to be protected from, and because her false and defamatory statements were disrupting my research into the role the mayor and the SFPD played in turning a positive, peaceful event into a "riot"
Unlike Ms. McCahan who had a $250 per hour downtown attorney to dress up her misconduct as "free speech," I have donated hundreds of hours of my time in the last year alone to various projects designed to protect civil liberties.
Unlike Ms. McCahan, I did not develop a sudden interest in civil liberties to cover an act of net abuse.
McCahan's attorney would have you believe that by using the Internet you lose your rights to protection against defamation by institutions that don't like your opinion. Additionally, he took great pains to impress on the judge that I was involved in exposing police abuses and political corruption in San Francisco. These comments were attended to very closely by Judge Winton McKibbons* who threw out the $5,000 judgement another San Francisco judge had levied against her.
In short, the news media that covered this story left out quite a bit of the facts, no doubt for brevity's sake. Interestingly neither of the publications which covered the trial has yet showed any interest in reporting how the Net was used to provide legal aid and gather evidence for over 100 people who were falsely charged with criminal violations on July 25.
* McKibbons is listed by the California State Bar as "inactive." He is also apparently unaware of the Surpreme Court rulings Cantwell v. Connecticut that "resort to epithets or personal abuse is not in any proper sense comunication of information or opinion safeguarded by the Constitution . . ." and Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire "It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality."