The civil defamation trial of blogger John Hoff, known as “Johnny Northside,” has begun in a Hennepin County court in Minneapolis.
Plaintiff Jerry Moore is seeking $50,000 in damages against Hoff, the proprietor of The Adventures of Johnny Northside blog, claiming that Hoff got Moore fired from his job at the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center at the University of Minnesota because of a 2009 post accusing Moore of being involved in a “high-profile fraudulent mortgage.”
Hoff told Abby Simons of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “My defense is the truth.”
“I’m not being sued because I defamed anybody. I was sued to shut me up,” he said.
Last week the judge ruled that Moore was a “limited-purpose public figure.” This is a huge victory for a defendant in a defamation case. It doesn’t win the case by itself, but it goes a long way.
The First Amendment requires public figures to prove “actual malice” to win a defamation suit. This means that Moore will be held to a very high standard of proof in the suit. It won’t be enough to show that Hoff was careless with the facts; Moore will have to show that Hoff either knew that what he wrote was false or that he wrote with reckless disregard of whether or not it was false.
And, of course, if it was the truth, then Hoff has it in the bag.
Hoff is reporting about the trial on his blog, where he calls it “[t]he blogosphere trial of the century.”
I don’t know about that, but I like Hoff’s defiant sentiment, which he posted today:
“They will stop my blogging when they pry the password from my cold, dead brain.”