Occupy Christmas

International Day of Action – December 25

Freedom of Speech – Void where prohibited by law

I hate Kentucky Fried Chicken for their cruelty to animals. Woops, there I go again breaking the law. You say it is illegal in most states to say something that is true if doing so might interfere with commerce. The principle of law which makes this so is called Tortious Interference. (1) In 1793, the application of this principle made sense. In the case Tarleton v. McGawley, the defendant fired a cannon from his ship the Othello at potential customers of another trading vessel. U.S. law has come a long way from the days when Tortious Interference dealt with the firing of cannons. Today, it is applied to statements made in blogs. Although you might think I am speaking of something similar to slander or liable, tortious Interference is now applicable to entirely truthful statements.

Consider the case of Jerry Moore vs. John (Johnny Northside) Hoff. As reported by The Star Tribune, Jerry Moore was a community leader linked to a high-profile mortgage fraud. (2) Moore, the former director of the Jordan Area Community Council, took great exception to a post John Hoff made in his blog. Because the statements made were truthful, Moore could not sue for deformation or the likes, he turned to the principles of Tortious Interference. (3)

After being fired by the Jordan Area Community Council, Moore had taken a job at the University of Minnesota. There, he was hired to study mortgage foreclosures. Upon discovering Moore’s new position, Hoff posted an article accusing Moore of involvement in a “high-profile fraudulent mortgage” scam. That scam was reportedly one of many which resulted in Larry Maxwell being sent to prison for 16 years. Although details are unclear as to why Jerry Moore did not go to prison for his involvement, the statements made by Hoff about Moore’s involvement were shown to be true. Perhaps that is why the University of Minnesota fired Moore the day after Hoff’s post.

“Moore was fired by the University of Minnesota in June 2009, the day after Hoff’s post.” – The Star Tribune (2)

Consider the ramifications of such a ruling. If you speak truthfully about a seated politician and that politician loses election due to your truthful speech, the new interpretation of this law could be that you must pay that politician’s future salary.

“The jury awarded Moore $35,000 for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress.” – The Star Tribune (2)

Hoff’s case is one of many. While legal scholars and civil rights advocates call these decisions ludicrous, many of them take the form of corporations with huge legal resources vs. individuals who simply cannot afford to defend themselves. This was not the case in Moore vs. Hoff. It was one individual speaking the truth, one individual who wanted his involvement in a mortgage scam kept secret, and a jury who is was convinced that it is improper to speak the truth in the United States of America.

It does not matter that the article was published in a blog because freedom of press is guaranteed by the same First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech. Those guarantees are now clearly Null and Void where prohibited by law.

 

  1. Tortious Interference at Wikipedia
  2. The Star Tribune on Moore vs. Hoff
  3. Ebusinesscouncil.com on tortious interference

December 3, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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