[Copy of Email provided courtesy NYL, Justice Watch Forum]
January 4, 2001
I received the following "tidbit" from one of your NY Lawyer Internet posts:
>>It should interest you to know that Lin Wood has yet to win his first libel action in front of a jury. The Richard Jewell and Ramsey cases have only resulted in nuisance value settlements. The one media outlet that hasn't settled is the Atlanta Constitution, and they have been giving Lin Wood more than he can handle in court (he's already lost important motions, one of which was the legal declaration that Richard Jewell is a public, not private, figure for the purposes of his lawsuits.) A major reason why Lin Wood has not brought libel actions on behalf of the Ramseys yet is the very real possibility that as "public figures" they will lose, irrespective of their guilt or innocence of the crime. (In fact, Lin has been reduced to pleading that Burke is a private figure, and not a limited public figure, in his complaints. Naturally, the tabloids are vigourosly denying this, arguing that Burke is a "vortex" public figure. They'll probably succeed too.)>>
Just to set briefly set the record straight, if you do not mind my doing so, (1) the Jewell and Ramsey settlements have not been nuisance settlements -- if they had been the defendants would not have insisted on the condition of strict confidentiality; (2) most observers to the Jewell v. AJC case familiar with it conclude that the AJC and its attorneys are getting their asses kicked, including entry of an order sending their prize reporters to jail for civil contempt until they reveal their confidential sources and including cross-examination of 3 AJC copy editors who finally admitted that one article was libelous and their efforts to have it killed prior to publication were ignored by a night editor who was more concerned about problems with a color photo on page one; and (3) yes, the trial court ruled that Jewell was a limited purpose public figure but I succeeded in obtaining a discretionary review of that ruling by the GA Court of Appeals (not decided yet); (4) no First Amendment lawyer who understands the definition of a limited purpose public figure (i.e., a "vortex" public figure) would stand before a judge with a straight face and argue that Burke Ramsey is a public figure -- he is the classic private defamation plaintiff -- he has never voluntarily thrust himself into a public controversy in an effort to influence public opinion (the definition of a "vortex" public figure).
I have only been handling libel cases for the last 4 years of my 23 years of practicing civil litigation and trial law and you are right -- I have not been forced to a jury trial in a libel case yet -- the defendants have always settled. But I have a long record of courtroom successes and many millions of dollars in verdicts recovered for my clients -- not against them. Stay tuned -- maybe Steve Thomas or some of your other friends will test me in front of a jury -- then we will know, won't we?
Just thought you would like to get your facts straight.