Saturday, December 22, 2007

NY's dreadful judicial system refuses to uphold Ehrenfeld's First Amendment rights

As Publisher's Weekly says, this is a major disappointment that they should throw away a chance to defend American citizens from libel suits filed in Britain. Here's the New York Sun's report on the turnout. However, as Democracy Project tells, there's a reason why this has happened:
What’s missing from the Sun’s account are four important points:

1. The NY law, unlike say California’s, is narrowly drawn, so residents have less protections from suits decided in other jurisdictions, especially ones that may be specious.

2. New York is a world center of publishing. All its publishers are, and some already have been, subject to “libel tourism” suits from Britain’s lax laws, which require the defendant to expensively prove all allegations rather than the plaintiff to prove libel as under U.S. law. These suits are a chill upon Americans’ free speech rights, as even a few copies of a U.S. publication sold over the Internet in Britain (as were just 23 copies of Ehrenfeld’s book) opens U.S. publishers to “libel tourism” suits from Britain.

3. New York’s legislature should immediately correct its statute, to conform to the U.S. Constitution. NY publishers and others should contact Governor Spitzer, their legislative reps, and also U.S. Senators Schumer and Clinton to bring their influence to bear.

4. Rachel Ehrenfeld, meanwhile, has seen her publishing access squeezed by fear of this suit, and lost considerable opportunities to earn her living, while Americans have been denied the opportunity to read her well-researched exposes of Arab financing of terror.
The state reps should certainly be lobbied to do something about this, though something tells me that Hillary Clinton is not one of them.

Here's what the AP Wire says:
The unanimous decision interpreting a New York law now goes to a federal court. There, author Rachel Ehrenfeld has sought to combat what her attorney argued was a chilling effect on free speech by the billionaire, Khalid Salim A. Bin Mahfouz. The Saudi businessman has sued more than two dozen times over writings on terrorism and those who fund it, including Ehrenfeld's 2003 book.

"The chill continues," said Ehrenfeld's attorney, Daniel Kornstein of Manhattan.

Kornstein said the businessman hasn't tried to collect on his judgment, which includes an apology and a halt on book sales. But he said the London court verdict is a threat to authors.

"That's the danger and the risk and the problem that we tried to stress," Kornstein said. "It creates a sword of Damocles that prohibits authors and publishers _ and readers can't read about it."
Indeed it does. It's time to halt this foreign persecution tactic dead in its tracks.

Update: be sure to read Andrew McCarthy's whole discussion.


Always On Watch said...

This is an exceedingly bad development!

The Merry Widow said...

"I have no mouth and I must scream"...