MONICA LINDSTROM

Legally Speaking: How could Arpaio win his libel lawsuit against NYT?

Oct 18, 2018, 8:14 AM
FILE - In this May 22, 2018 file photo, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a c...

FILE - In this May 22, 2018 file photo, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks during a campaign event in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has filed a lawsuit against The New York Times and one of its writers, Michelle Cottle, over an op-ed article that was published.

Arpaio’s lawsuit centers around a claim of libel. He is asking the court order he be paid money for the damages he has sustained to his reputation, and those he will sustain, as well as money to punish the defendants.

Libel is one type of defamation which deals with the written word. Slander is another type that deals with the spoken word.

A lawsuit for libel involving a public figure is not an easy one to win. When a public figure is the alleged victim (the plaintiff), they have to prove the defendant acted with actual malice. In other words, it must be proven the defendant acted with an intent to hurt or damage, it is more than just knowledge that harm would occur. This additional requirement of actual malice is not necessary when it is a private person bringing the lawsuit.

To be successful on his libel claim, Arpaio will need to prove the article contained a false statement(s), that the statement(s) was published and was done so deliberately, with actual malice. New York explains this as “meant to maliciously degrade and humiliate.”

There are a couple defenses that the New York Times and its writer can assert. One is truth. If what the author wrote was true, then Arpaio will likely lose. Two other defenses the defendants could use are general reporting and opinion. In this country the media is allowed to report on events dealing with public persons and officials. In addition, Americans are allowed to have, and to give, their opinion under the First Amendment. This article was an op-ed, an opinion article. As such, this defense could be successful.

In the event Arpaio is successful proving the elements above, he still has to be able to show he was damaged and then he has to actually quantify the damage.

The complaint alleges his reputation, and political aspirations, have been harmed by the article and that he will continue to suffer harm. This is a very difficult thing to put into dollars and cents unless you can show you lost a business contract that had a set dollar amount or range. Oftentimes attorneys have to choose a number that is loosely based on other similar cases.

Bottom line #LegallySpeaking, Arpaio has an uphill battle in his libel lawsuit. That being said, we have all seen that Arpaio is a fighter and chances are he will keep fighting — even when the odds are against him.

Monica Lindstrom

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)...
Monica Lindstrom

Legally Speaking: It will come down to the states, not Supreme Court, to rule on abortion legality

The issue of whether an abortion will be legal and any rules regarding it will revert back to the states, not the Supreme Court, for each of them to decide on their own, writes Monica Lindstrom.
19 days ago
Arizona State Courts Building (Arizona Governor's Office Photo)...
Monica Lindstrom

Legally Speaking: Brnovich appeal to Arizona Supreme Court makes sense

KTAR legal analyst Monica Lindstrom thinks it's a good move by Attorney General Mark Brnovich to petition the Arizona Supreme Court to hear his appeal in a case about laws that were ruled unconstitutional.
8 months ago
(File Photo by Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)...
Monica Lindstrom

Legally Speaking: Why judge rejected Arizona ban on mask mandates

KTAR legal expert Monica Lindstrom explains the reasons behind a judge's decision to strike down Arizona's ban on face mask mandates.
8 months ago
(Facebook File Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...
Monica Lindstrom

Legally Speaking: Police may need to be part of Phoenix oversight office

Phoenix's requirement that no current or former law enforcement be part of a new police oversight office appears to be in direct conflict with recently signed Arizona laws, writes KTAR News legal expert Monica Lindstrom.
1 year ago
Monica Lindstrom

Legally Speaking: Arizona employees could be required to get virus vaccine

With coronavirus vaccines on the horizon, Arizona employers could require their employees to get the virus vaccine but there would be exceptions.
2 years ago
(AP Photo/Matt York)...
Monica Lindstrom

Legally Speaking: Maricopa County ballot lawsuit could have merit

KTAR legal expert Monica Lindstrom says the Maricopa County ballot lawsuit could have merit, whether it's for affecting ongoing races or correcting a procedural issue for the next election.
2 years ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
(Twitter photo / Coco5)...
Coco5

Suns star Devin Booker’s all-natural sports drink Coco5 perfect for any activity

Devin Booker is leading the Suns in pursuit of their first NBA championship while also working to provide people proper hydration with Coco5.
Legally Speaking: How could Arpaio win his libel lawsuit against NYT?