Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh verse, same as the first
A little bit louder, and a little bit worse
Herman’s Hermits, “I’m Henry the Eighth I Am” (1965)
An Oaf is suing a number of good folks for libel. He’s suing in federal court in South Carolina, but the court there will apply that state’s law as no federal claims are raised in the Pachydermic Plaintiff’s complaint, which contends:
Now, lets assume for the sake of argument that the law cited here is correct1. It seems pretty clear to this observer that even the Ponderous Petitioner can identify from this statute the three elements necessary for a successful libel claim: intention, publication and damage to character or reputation. And he clearly thinks he’s got ’em all.
Let’s see, that looks like intention and publication, aaaaaaaaand
Yep, there’s damage to character or reputation.
In Pretendyland, anyway.
Now let’s step back in time. To 2014.
Whoa! Wait a minute. 2014. Hmmmm. That was sure a long time ago. In fact, without looking too hard, one can find claims by Our Oaf that his reputation has been destroyed by us evil people that date back close to five years.
Libel laws, unfortunately for Bill, aren’t the only thing the South Carolina legislature has been busy passing. There’s this gem at SC Code § 15-3-550 (2013).
So, although not made explicit in the complaint2, what is being alleged is that the various defendants committed their libelous acts from the spring of 2015 on. Anything done before that time cannot, by South Carolina law, be taken into account by the court.
Once again, though, the Barrel-shaped Barrister sees only what he wants to see. He sees what people wrote. And he sees that his reputation is ruined. What he misses, though, is that in order for there to be a determination that a given act was libel, all of these events must fall within the limitations period. In other words, if his reputation was, by his own admission, “trashed” and thus ruined in 2014, a statement published by any of the defendants from the spring of 2015 on isn’t a basis for the court to find anything.
As the plaintiff, The Oaf will have the burden of proving that he had a reputation that could be damaged in the first months of 2015. If this case would ever make it to a trial3 before the jury- a jury that he requested- beyond his admissions that his reputation was already ruined before that time4 can you imagine what conclusions that jury will draw about Bill Schmalfeldt’s pre-2015 reputation in the community- any community- after it has had a trial day full of such highlights as listening to Bill’s “comedy stylings” about Scouts, anal sex, coprophilia, and the like? My guess is that he is going to find out that his peers aren’t going to like those things very much.
If that isn’t bad enough, there’s another good reason having to do with The Oaf’s claims that this case is DOA, in this instance probably by motion for summary judgment. This post has run long, though, so you’ll have to wait ’til tomorrow for that. Like I said- stay tuned.
1 A precarious assumption at best, but sometimes you just go with what you got. In any event, this is what The Oaf believes the law to be in connection with the claims he’s raising. Stay tuned.
2 Pretty much nothing is made explicit in The Oaf’s complaint, which is about as poorly pled as it gets. It cannot be excused by saying, “Well, it’s a typical pro se filing.” Bill Schmalfeldt has had a lot of practice at this, folks, and it is apparent he has learned absolutely nothing from the experience.
3 We’ve covered this before. This case will not make it to trial. But, after all, one of the parties does hail from Pretendyland, so lets indulge him a bit.
4 The Oaf might want to read up on the “admission against interest” hearsay exception. Just sayin’.