Friday, September 11, 2015

Judge tosses Hornback libel suit

A judge has dismissed the libel lawsuit filed by former Knox County GOP chair Ruthie Kuhlman against local political blogger Brian Hornback, also a former local Republican Party chair who owns and writes for “Shock and Awe.”

Kuhlman initially sued Hornback in October 2013 for $100,000, accusing the long-time blogger and former Knox County school board member of posting six false statements attributed to her and that he did so out of malice.

For example, she said that Hornback, on his blog, suggested that Kuhlman – whom he never actually named – verbally attacked a Young Republican Club leader; said that he resign from the club; and said he was blackballed “by the money in the party”.

She also said that Hornback asserted that she stated: “If we are to ever achieve elected superintendent status that we have to vote out Rep. Harry Brooks and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey.”

The two state leaders support electing a superintendent, rather than voting in one, something that is a hot issue among many local Republicans.

RULING: Link to summary judgement

Kulhman’s attorney, Herbert S. Moncier, asked for a retraction and public apology from the blogger, but Hornback refused.

Hornback then secured sworn affidavits from a number of his sources who said they heard Kuhlman make the statements.

In the end, Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who presided over the case after a number of local judges recused themselves, said Kuhlman failed to establish malice – a key component needed to win a libel case.

Malice, he noted, connotes more than personal ill will or desire to injure, but rather “it is limited to statements made with knowledge that they are false or with reckless disregard to their truth.”

Kerry said that part of Kuhlman’s argument focused on attempting “to portray Mr. Hornback’s habit of publishing false statements,” and “that she believes (Hornback) belongs to a political breakfast club that dislikes her.”

“Much of this evidence is inadmissible such as (Kuhlman’s) beliefs about being disliked or that (Hornback) harbors ill will,” Kerry wrote in his judgment. “(Kuhlman) cannot rest upon supposition, but must state with clarity factual issues that establish actual malice.” (Kuhlman) has failed to carry this burden . . . .”

Blackwood also said Kuhlman is responsible for court costs. Hornback, though, is responsible for his own attorney costs.

Kuhlman can still appeal.

1 comment:

Toby said...

I think Brian is a bloated bag of barely sentient protoplasm, but good for him on this one. If there were a way to outlaw SLAPP style lawsuits, here is a a case that fits the reasoning. I understand this cost him big, which was probably Kuhlman's intent. Brian isn't exactly J.B. Gotrocks. He took a hit for the team and is to be commended for that. Now if he just wasn't stupid......