The Recorder’s Karen Sloan reported this week that an attorney-discipline blogger and a blog network owned by Pepperdine Law’s dean were hit with a defamation suit.
“The lawsuit was filed against Michael Frisch, adjunct professor and ethics counsel at Georgetown University Law Center, who is also the primary author of the Legal Profession Blog, which highlights attorney discipline cases across the country. The plaintiff in the suit brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is attorney John Paul Szymkowicz, who also named Law Professor Blogs LLC, a blogging network owned by Paul Caron, dean of Pepperdine University Rick J. Caruso School of Law. Frisch’s Legal Profession Blog is a member of Law Professor Blogs.”
The complaint alleged that Frisch “engaged in false, defamatory, public, and vile personal attacks against J.P. Szymkowicz, culminating in their most recent accusations of legal misconduct, ‘elder care abuse,’ and ‘horrific elder abuse.’”
The last blog post ran in 2018 after all discipline charges against the plaintiff were dismissed.
I’ve seen very very few law suits brought against legal professionals as a result of their blogging. I have little problem telling lawyers that the risk of such suits is de minimus.
Having said that, legal bloggers would be wise to have insurance coverage against defamation and other claims.
Not so much to pay out on a viable claim, but to cover the costs of defense. Free speech and freedom of the press go a long way in protecting bloggers from successful claims.
I doubt that anyone’s malpractice insurance will cover a defamation claim arising out of blogging – unless one is successful in arguing to an insurer it was my negligence in the course of legal services while blogging that precipitated the claim.
But a general liability business policy or commercial liability insurance policy will provide “advertising coverage.” If the policy does not, look to purchase a rider for the policy. Advertising riders I have bought did not cost much.
Advertising injury coverage is a component of commercial general liability insurance that protects you against claims of stolen ideas, invasion of privacy, libel, slander and copyright infringement related to advertising. Advertising injury coverage is a type of personal injury insurance, as opposed to physical injury insurance, and may also be called personal and advertising injury coverage.
Any good lawyer knows when they’re approaching the third rail of what to say and what not to say. Most legal bloggers are afraid to take any position, let alone take a position that could be argued to be defamatory.
I’ve always viewed insurance as cheap and if needed, it’s there to cover you and your defense.
When practicing, I was sued for defamation by an insurance company as part of my investigating the company’s history of denying claims. Good counsel was hired by my general liability carrier who beat the insurance company through the trial and appellate courts.
Blogging, I had a lawyer tell me he was going to sue me for defamation and that he was going to ruin me and my family. I nicely explained that when he lost his suit, all he will have proven was that what I said was true. He went away – after a year or two.
I have also blogged about the shady practices of multi-billion companies. Though never threatened by the companies and knowing what I said was accurate or my opinion, it was nice to know when I nervously hit the publish button that I did have coverage.
Enough talking in relation to this lawyer’s defamation claim, I don’t want to be added as a defendant.
Lesson learned though, confirm you have the coverage – and if not, get it.