Case not-Dismissed: Sarah Palin’s Libel Claim Rejected by a Jury of her Peers

In a decision that was rendered largely ceremonial a day earlier, when the presiding judge announced that he planned to dismiss the case regardless of the jury’s verdict, a jury of Sarah Palin’s peers Tuesday rejected her libel lawsuit against The New York Times. 

Palin’s lawyers failed to prove she was defamed by the 2017 editorial which linked her political rhetoric to a mass shooting, Judge Jed Rakoff told reporters in explaining his decision to dismiss. His remarks came in response to a motion by The Times asking the court to rule in its favor regardless of the jury’s finding. According to The Times, “A landmark Supreme Court case from 1964, The New York Times Company v. Sullivan, established that a public figure like Ms. Palin has to prove that a news organization acted with “actual malice” in publishing false information, meaning it displayed a reckless disregard for the truth or knew the information was false.

“The law sets a very high standard for actual malice, and in this case the court finds that standard has not been met,” [Judge Rakoff] said.”

The jury’s decision, though rendered effectively meaningless by Judge Rakoff’s decision to dismiss, aligns with decades of legal precedent which protects the media in the case of occasional mistakes, which are considered under law to be simply the cost of doing business in a free society. Further, although the jury’s verdict was preempted in this case, that Judge Rakoff allowed it to be delivered may have important implications when it comes to whether this case is accepted for appeal. Again according to The Times, “First Amendment scholars said the appeals court may view [Palin’s] case skeptically given that both the judge and the jury decided she had not met her burden of proof.”

The Times apologized for and corrected the error in 2017, the day after it was published. 

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