Obama-appointed judge wrongly dismisses defamation lawsuit in Hunter Biden laptop story

In response to the Politico report on Tuesday confirming the authenticity of the most damning Joe Biden documents found on an abandoned MacBook, an attorney for the owner of The Mac Shop told me, “I hate that there are people who think it’s real news! “

The sentiment of lawyer Brian Della Rocca is understandable. Since the New York Post first reported that the MacBook had been ditched in John Paul Mac Isaac’s computer repair store, the documents have been repeatedly confirmed to be true and none of the Bidens have denied the authenticity of documents.

Additionally, when The Federalist broke last month, the dumped laptop contained a video revealing a second missing laptop – a Hunter Biden believed the Russians had stolen and that could provide material for blackmail. And, significantly, about nine months before the New York Post revealed the videos, emails, and texts, the FBI seized the laptop and thus gained access to the video of Hunter sharing his thoughts. concerns about the theft of his laptop by Russians.

The supposed journalism standard-bearers, however, ignored the Post’s original story except to present it as Russian disinformation, while Twitter locked the Post’s account and prevented the story from being shared. Later when the Daily Mail broke the news and a video of Hunter Biden telling a prostitute that in the summer of 2018, after waking up from a near drug overdose, he found out his laptop was missing. , probably stolen by Russians, corporate media remained stilted in their coverage of the explosive story. They then returned to their position of seeing no harm when confirmation came that the FBI was aware of this stolen second laptop.

Yet now that Politico Ben schreckinger released a book, “The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power,” the media is making noise about the scandal, though still muted, and while claiming that some elements may not be authentic.

Nonetheless, it’s still a good thing for Americans blinded by corporate and social media censorship to finally learn the truth. But that’s little consolidation for John Paul Mac Isaac, whom Della Rocca represents in the latter’s defamation case against Twitter.

In that lawsuit, Mac Isaac alleged that Twitter had defamed him by justifying his decision to block the New York Post’s exposure to MacBook content by declaring the material “pirated”. Given the social and corporate media presentation of Isaac as the owner of the store who provided a copy of the laptop hard drive to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the factual claim of Twitter that the material had been “hacked” called Isaac a “hacker”.

The fallout on Mac Isaac was swift, he received threats and was eventually forced to close his doors. In an attempt to get some semblance of justice, Isaac sued Twitter in federal district court for libel.

Unlike most cases against Twitter, Section 230 does not provide the tech giant with any protection for Mac Isaac’s lawsuit. While Section 230 grants providers of “interactive computer services” immunity for information posted by users, the basis of Mac Isaac’s lawsuit rests on Twitter’s own allegedly defamatory statement, namely his trademark of Isaac. as a hacker, and not on something a user has posted.

Second, while Twitter also enjoys immunity for good faith censorship of user speech, the libel complaint against Twitter is not based on Twitter’s ban of the New York Post and coverage of the MacBook scandal. On the contrary, Mac Isaac’s claim is based on Twitter claiming, in fact, that the material included in the articles was “hacked”.

Unfortunately for Mac Isaac, a federal court dismissed his lawsuit against Twitter on August 30, 2021. The court’s ruling, however, represents a misinterpretation of Florida defamation law, which the court found applied in this case. .

Florida law clearly states that an individual does not need to be named in a publication to sue for libel. On the contrary, it is well established in Florida that a plaintiff who is not explicitly named in a publication can sue for libel if “the communication as a whole contains sufficient facts or references from which the injured party can be determined. by the persons receiving the communications ”. The test is whether “the average person reading [the]statements could reasonably have concluded that the applicant[] was involved.

However, Judge Beth Bloom, appointed by Barack Obama, nonetheless dismissed Mac Isaac’s trial, arguing that because he was pursuing a “in itself” defamation complaint, his identity was to be determined only from the Twitter post. Bloom’s reasoning is flawed for two main reasons.

First, the case law cited by Bloom did not involve whether the unidentified person could sue for libel. in itself. Second, and related, the concept of in itself libel has an entirely separate element from a cause of action for libel.

To obtain relief for defamation, a plaintiff must accuse the defendant negligently (or maliciously if the plaintiff is a public figure), of making a false statement of fact, concerning and concerning the plaintiff, which damaged his reputation and caused damage.

Defamation in itself involves false statements of fact considered so bad, such as that a person has committed a crime or is unfit for their profession, that the court assumes damage is resulting and therefore no proof of damage is required. This question is quite separate from whether the Twitter branding of documents as “pirated” was “of and relating to” Mac Isaac, ie falsely stating that he was a hacker.

The trial court’s analysis mistakenly amalgamated these elements and in doing so ignored Florida law which allows an unidentified person to sue for libel. Although the ruling is flawed, no decision has been made on whether to appeal the case, Della Rocca told me. “The calls are extremely expensive and because of the conduct of Twitter, Mac Isaac is now unemployed.”

Not appealing, however, will also be costly because in dismissing Mac Isaac’s case, Judge Bloom concluded that Isaac had to pay Twitter costs and attorney fees under the anti-SLAPP law of the Florida. The anti-SLAPP law imposes the award of attorneys’ fees and costs to a defendant if the person brings a lawsuit “without merit and primarily because that person or entity has exercised the constitutional right to freedom of law. expression in the context of a public affair ”.

Della Rocca said they also believe the anti-SLAPP ruling was fundamentally wrong. This “law was enacted to prevent the filing of frivolous lawsuits is now used by the social media titans to force the average citizen into submission,” he said.

“At this point,” Della Rocca added, “John Paul’s choices may be limited by economics instead of what’s right.”

This principle appears to apply to the media’s decision to just start covering the Hunter Biden laptop scandal as well. There are books for sale, after all.

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland has served for almost 25 years as a permanent legal assistant to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and assistant instructor at the University of Notre Dame College of Commerce. The views expressed herein are those of Cleveland in a private capacity.

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